Someone knocked on the door. Three soft raps of the knuckles. “Ah.” Bard pushed back his chair and stood, leaning on the tabletop. “We are summoned. Come, we will speak more of this another time.” Another time? Not soon, not later, not tomorrow? As if the matter were of no immediate importance and there was all the time in the world. Utterly rattled now, Gudric followed Bard to the door and out....

He stared at the door, small and thick and firmly shut in stout rock wall. Beyond, a tangle of tunnels running up and down all ways. A haven, he’d thought it, timely escape from the merchant riders. But now it began to look more like a trap....

Hesta stared at him, numb. She’d resolved not to let him shock her. Well, he’d done that, all right. No wonder she had sensed her world dissolving all around her. But she’d not guessed at anything like this. In fact, in this brief space of a sandclock he’d shattered it completely and nothing would ever be the same…....

Hesta eyed her curiously. Strange. Reyula called that country the home of bloodthirsty barbarians. This girl looked neither bloodthirsty nor barbaric. More like a harling wishing to be taken in as pet. Hesta had another urge—to seize and shake her! And so she might, after a fashion. I’m hungry. What is there to eat? If the girl was startled at the sudden mindspeech, she hid it well. A meal is prepared for the Hesta. I will fetch it at once. R...

He felt a familiar tingling. The Dark was lifting. In the beginning, when he had first discovered this strange gift, its effect had not lasted long. But as he’d grown proficient in its use, it had lasted well beyond his needs and he’d never had to test its limits. But there was one, it now seemed. Usage told it would return. And if past practice were anything to go by, come mid-morning it should be back full strength. This chapter brings in n...

“Okay, Pross. Forget Hengst. Forget the idiots out there. Let’s get this thing fixed. Suk, check the old man, make sure he’s okay.” She made a face. “Waste of time, and you know it. He runs under his own steam whatever we do.” “I know. But put on a good show. We don’t want those bozos to know just how expendable we are, now do we?”...

Throat on fire, eyes streaming, (Hesta) reached the shaft floor. Uncle Freyde lay in a heap, unmoving. “Uncle Freyde?” Oh may the Quaur have spared him! “T’tahinay.” His voice came in a whisper. “I didn’t … see … Bard.” The heavy-lidded eyes closed. “Uncle Freyde! Uncle Freyde!”...

After all this, she remembered thinking. She was fading, something heavy pressed upon her chest. Then, strangest of all, she felt herself being borne up off the ground. Was she dying? Was this how it felt? A face loomed over her. “T’tahinay.” Father....

… as long as no one dies or unless there’s something like a fire…. She shivered. Fire down there would be a horror….The place would be an inferno within minutes. She clenched her hands, released them. Maybe....

(Hesta) gazed up, tempted to try those rungs, to climb the shaft and try its seal. The taper light sputtered, went out. Just as well. It was surely time. She turned to go, resolving to return at the earliest opportunity....

Quotation from “Peter Grimes” by Benjamin Britten Bonus item: Preamble Bonus item: Space Tektonics, Inc – Manfred Hengst’s orbiting space complex. Bonus item: Glossary of alien words and names....

Top Shelf launching Monday, Nov 4th with Chapter 1 of The Atheling. We have created the Top Shelf for the series to separate it from the main podcast library. Since the series contains sensitive material in places, we have placed an age gate on the shelf as an alert. I post this preamble which will always be available in the Top Shelf Bonus folder along with other items as they are added....

Peter pictured Bruto in the big, empty mansion, dining alone in the Great Hall by the light of the golden tree candelabras. No talk, no sharing songs on the spinet. Now if Bruto sang, his voice would echo through the solitary spaces, with no one else to hear. Bonus item: Bella and Bruto talking together in the courtyard...

“Bruto, it is wrong to force your will on people!” Bella cried. “And we’ll never give in!” She turned to Peter. “I’m beat. I’m going to sleep right here.” “Not me.” Peter remembered the first night they’d fled: the roars and the howling. “No way I’m going to close my eyes. No way … no way….” Note: the pig in ‘Tom, Tom the piper’s son&...

They scrambled up and hurried around the corner of the greenhouse. In the full glare of the late morning sun lay a body covered in a heavy cloak and hood. Bela darted forward and crouching drew the hood aside. Bruto....

As he peered down, the massive shape unfolded from its chair to stand beside it. Then, unaware of being watched, it moved out from the shadows towards the spinet and Peter froze. “What, what is it?” Bella called from the stairs. Bonus item 1: Bella at the spinet. Bonus item 2: What Peter saw. Bonus item 3: How Bella likely would have seen it....

Tomorrow night, (Peter) thought drowsily, slipping into sleep at last, what then? They surely wouldn’t even think of going back into that place—would they? He certainly would not. But you never knew with Bella. Bonus item 1: Bella in her finery. Bonus item 2: Shadow behind the chair...

This final Jason chapter replaces the 1st edition version in the printed book and will comprise Sunday in the second edition. This coming Thursday I begin reading Beauty and the Beast, a retelling. The pen & ink illustrations by Claire Roberts (couple by me) will be included as bonus items with each chapter....

Tears came, warm tears, blinding him. He felt the woman’s touch, a soft caress. “Jason? Jason, love, what is it?” “I want my dad,” he sobbed....

Looking Jason’s way, the prince strode over. “Is not Rani the most delicious creature? Her face is as a million summer gardens, her skin is delicate as—” “Can Rani get us some curry, Firouz?”...

Chapter 22-pt-i – The Hesta
The Hesta , Top Shelf , Top Shelf / September 17, 2020

Someone knocked on the door. Three soft raps of the knuckles. “Ah.” Bard pushed back his chair and stood, leaning on the tabletop. “We are summoned. Come, we will speak more of this another time.” Another time? Not soon, not later, not tomorrow? As if the matter were of no immediate importance and there was all the time in the world. Utterly rattled now, Gudric followed Bard to the door and out....

Chapter 21 – The Hesta
The Hesta , Top Shelf , Top Shelf / September 14, 2020

He stared at the door, small and thick and firmly shut in stout rock wall. Beyond, a tangle of tunnels running up and down all ways. A haven, he’d thought it, timely escape from the merchant riders. But now it began to look more like a trap....

Chapter 20 – The Hesta
The Hesta , Top Shelf , Top Shelf / September 10, 2020

Hesta stared at him, numb. She’d resolved not to let him shock her. Well, he’d done that, all right. No wonder she had sensed her world dissolving all around her. But she’d not guessed at anything like this. In fact, in this brief space of a sandclock he’d shattered it completely and nothing would ever be the same…....

Chapter 19- The Hesta
The Hesta , Top Shelf , Top Shelf / September 7, 2020

Hesta eyed her curiously. Strange. Reyula called that country the home of bloodthirsty barbarians. This girl looked neither bloodthirsty nor barbaric. More like a harling wishing to be taken in as pet. Hesta had another urge—to seize and shake her! And so she might, after a fashion. I’m hungry. What is there to eat? If the girl was startled at the sudden mindspeech, she hid it well. A meal is prepared for the Hesta. I will fetch it ...

Chapter 18 – The Hesta
The Hesta , Top Shelf , Top Shelf / September 3, 2020

He felt a familiar tingling. The Dark was lifting. In the beginning, when he had first discovered this strange gift, its effect had not lasted long. But as he’d grown proficient in its use, it had lasted well beyond his needs and he’d never had to test its limits. But there was one, it now seemed. Usage told it would return. And if past practice were anything to go by, come mid-morning it should be back full strength. This chapter b...

Chapter 17 – The Hesta
The Hesta , Top Shelf , Top Shelf / August 31, 2020

“Okay, Pross. Forget Hengst. Forget the idiots out there. Let’s get this thing fixed. Suk, check the old man, make sure he’s okay.” She made a face. “Waste of time, and you know it. He runs under his own steam whatever we do.” “I know. But put on a good show. We don’t want those bozos to know just how expendable we are, now do we?”...

Chapter 16 – The Hesta
The Hesta , Top Shelf / August 27, 2020

Throat on fire, eyes streaming, (Hesta) reached the shaft floor. Uncle Freyde lay in a heap, unmoving. “Uncle Freyde?” Oh may the Quaur have spared him! “T’tahinay.” His voice came in a whisper. “I didn’t … see … Bard.” The heavy-lidded eyes closed. “Uncle Freyde! Uncle Freyde!”...

Chapter 15 – The Hesta
The Hesta , Top Shelf / August 24, 2020

After all this, she remembered thinking. She was fading, something heavy pressed upon her chest. Then, strangest of all, she felt herself being borne up off the ground. Was she dying? Was this how it felt? A face loomed over her. “T’tahinay.” Father....

Chapter 14 – The Hesta
The Hesta , Top Shelf / August 19, 2020

… as long as no one dies or unless there’s something like a fire…. She shivered. Fire down there would be a horror….The place would be an inferno within minutes. She clenched her hands, released them. Maybe....

Chapter 13 – The Hesta
The Hesta , Top Shelf / August 17, 2020

(Hesta) gazed up, tempted to try those rungs, to climb the shaft and try its seal. The taper light sputtered, went out. Just as well. It was surely time. She turned to go, resolving to return at the earliest opportunity....

Chapter 12 – The Hesta
The Hesta , Top Shelf / August 13, 2020

Hesta looked to the table. Still cluttered with the midday dishes. The cloth was stained, and littered with dropped food. No fire. Back by the wall, the day lamps burned steadily, casting their bright blue light over all. Rakia appeared, pushing through the crowd. “T’tahinay,” she said quietly. “You’d better come with me.”...

Chapter 11 – The Hesta

“When (your father comes), by his leave, Reyula and I will tell you what we can—which likely won’t be all you ask. No more than one quarter space is left to you now,” (Rakia) added tartly, “before you have to be up and doing. Make the most of it—and not my fault that it’s so short!”...

Chapter 10 – The Hesta
Top Shelf / August 6, 2020

“Tahin.” Monidia caught at his sleeve. “Go safely, by the will of the Quaur.” Almost Brocan smiled. One last look to Hesta then he was through the trapdoor and gone. Numbed by it all, Hesta stood with the rest while the trapdoor creaked down and the wine rack rumbled heavily into place....

Chapter 9 – The Hesta
Top Shelf / August 3, 2020

“You saved my life, t’tahinay,” (Rakia) murmured. “Hold firm to that.” In a rush of gratitude, Hesta came up on the cushions of the chair, twisted about, put her arms around Rakia and squeezed her tight. “Laksra,” she whispered. Rakia pulled back sharply. “What did you say?” Hesta drew back also, startled. “I-I don’t know.” Voices sounded from the hall. Boots smacked smartly over the wide polished boards. Father....

Chapter 8 – The Hesta
Top Shelf / July 30, 2020

In that case…what was the purpose of the stone place images? Maybe…maybe that’s where they were going to put her—not in the clan burial ground where she didn’t belong…. Hesta put feet to floor. There was just one way to find out…....

Chapter 7 – The Hesta
Top Shelf / July 27, 2020

“Rakia, those pictures came to me unsought and without warning. They have to be a message of some kind. . . . Can’t you see? I’m meant to know now. Now, Rakia. Now.” For a moment, Hesta thought the old woman would give in. But gathering her doyshan about her shoulders, Rakia got up stiffly. “T’tahinay—to bed.”...

Chapter 6 – The Hesta
Top Shelf / July 23, 2020

Right now, she had to be lying on her Aunt Marita’s cot. Yet she hovered, somehow, in that midnight chamber, in a far off time and space. Shira eyed the bed, the sleeper coming drowsily awake. And as she did so the thoughts, the feelings of that sleeper began to flow into her mind. Female. Young. A child. . . ....

Chapter 5 – The Hesta
Top Shelf / July 20, 2020

“We should be getting back. Me first. Then you, Pross. And you last, Suk. Oh, and you might bring fresh soycaf with you.” “Great. I save your hide—again—and what do I get for it? To be the gofer!” She rattled the door to let them all out. But she was smiling....

Chapter 4 – The Hesta
Top Shelf / July 16, 2020

“. . . It is. Grandfather says you must destroy the strips.” His eyes went steely. “What makes you think I have them?” “Oh, come on.” “Shira, I told you that I can’t do that until the President tells me to.” “Don’t be ridiculous. There is no President any more. No World Council either. . .”...