Newborn Lucky in his father's hands

Wednesday Words—Good, Bad, Ugly

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In this week’s Wednesday Words, get a glimpse of three powers. Three people important in The Sun Child Chronicles, book 1, Key of Behliseth. Three people whom, whether they’re good, bad, or ugly, fifteen year-old Lucky might wish he’d never met.

Good: Thurlock Ol’Karrigh, Premier Wizard of the Ethran Sunlands

You’ve already been introduced and seen that in addition to being very powerful, he’s extremely grumpy, no doubt owing to his great (seriously great) age. Of course, no one can rack up a thousand years of life without gathering regrets. And some of the most troubling of Thurlock’s regrets center around main character, Lucky—or Luccan as those in his home world know him.

Thurlock’s sorrow—a memory

It was Luccan’s twelfth birthday, the day he should have received his cardinal name so he could begin to gather the strength it would impart. Knowing a little of what his fortune might hold, the wizard thought surely the youngster would soon need all the strength he could find.

Newborn Lucky in his father's handsAcross the vale stood the neat, sunlit windows and varnished logs of Sisterhold Manor, Luccan’s home. Beyond that, in the near distance, Oakridge rose form the hillside like a monument to history. When Luccan was only two hours old, Thurlock had brought him out into the summer dawn and fumbled him into his father’s strong but equally fumbling hands. The man had carried his child to the sun-sparked granite on the ridge and whispered a name into his ear. A powerful name known only to them. Witnessed solely by the wind.

And now, his birthday would pass without its most important gift. Because of what Thurlock had not done on Luccan’s first day, disaster threatened. For Luccan, for the Sunlands, perhaps for all the world of Ethra.

The infant, of course, had forgotten the name. His father had become lost. And the Gods’ Breath, fabled dawn wind of the Sunlands, kept its secrets.

Bad: Isa, The Witch Mortaine

Yes, you’ve met her too. She’s thoroughly unpleasant. You saw her before launching a more-powerful-than-most minion on an unsuspecting Earth. But here, listen in on her thoughts on his twelfth birthday. Thurlock had regrets. Isa has plans. And for Lucky, they spell doom.

She’ll let him live—for now

Privately, Isa thought it would be best to kill the boy and have done. Granted, the recent strange behavior of time brought opportunity. And true, the boy’s unformed powers might boost her own—in the service of her master, of course—if she could subvert them.

Yes, she would bow to the wishes of the Lord Mahl, and alter her course. The boy would live, long enough at least to determine if he could be put to use. If the costs in time and effort then grew too vast, the boy’s death would destroy the enemy’s hopes, and Mahl would be appeased.

She took tock of her image in the looking glass. The light filtering through the icy walls fo her keep lit her eyes with blue fire and emphasized her long bones and sharp angles. The reflection pleased her . Gone was the soft-faced girl of ages past, the girl who had been a fool. Staring back from the silvered glass was a woman of power, a witch who could wait for reward.

Yes. She would sow seeds now for the Sunlands’ defeat. Later, when she reaped vengeance against the one man who mattered, the fruit would be that much sweeter.

Form glass shelves holding bottles, boxes, and vials, she gather the bits she would need for the spell.

Midsummer stood on the cusp. The moment for cold, hard magic had come.

Ugly: He’s called Hench…

…but who is he really? And why does he matter?

Hate is a larval vampire

The walls of the Witch-Mortaine’s tower, glass colored blue like deep ice, stole the last of the day’s light from dusk. A man with heavy chestnut curls and a scarred face limped along the crow’s walk, circling round and round. His steps fell as listless as his greasy hair, and his mangled left hand dragged along the thin rail that separated the pinnacle from the clouds it speared. The cold steel burned and he pulled the nearly useless limb against his body, trying to rub life into it with his better hand.

The tower rose from a boulder strewn plain below the twin pillars of Death of the Gods, rooted between high-ridges, veiled in spells. At this hour the entire crater lay in shadow. But even with one eye, Hench’s vision was sharp. He could see cars sliding along Valley City’s roads trailing columns of red and white like snakes of light.Hench's view of Valley City roads, "snakes of light."

He imagined the people piloting them, tired Earthborns who wished they’d already arrived wherever they were going.

He wondered about their lives.

Did they have any kind of magic? Had they ever had it? Had any of them possessed magic and love and a good life and lost it all? He wondered whether their cars would pile up in a panicked crash if they but once saw through the magical veils and glimpsed the deadly crystal beauty of the spire from which he gazed.

He worked his shoulder into a painful shrug, wishing he could rid himself of the black shadow that weighed him down. A shadow he himself had created out of anger. And hate. He shook his head in persistent disbelief that it had overtaken him so easily, so fast.

He’d committed himself to vengeance, and the shadow had been born. A larval vampire that fed on his spirit, consumed his strength, crushed all joy. It grew stronger with every cruel choice, every time he lashed out burning with rage. It fouled his every step, turned even his best intentions to evil end, drained him of substance as surely as if it had torn his heart and bled him dry. The remains had become a joke, fool to a fiendish witch, tool in the hands of the person he most hated.


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Lucky found the way out of the collapsed Portal cave.

Wednesday Words: Wraith Queen’s Veil

lou hoffmann books square iconThis week’s Wednesday Words…

…are a little different. This is a long excerpt with a playful slant, but an important moment for Lucky. Book two of The Sun Child Chronicles, Wraith Queen’s Veil, opens with Lucky and Thurlock in the midst of a magical trip between worlds after having defeated evil in the form of Isa, The Witch Mortaine.

At fifteen, Lucky has to step up.

Lucky’s own newly recognized magical ability is responsible (in large part) for their escape with their lives. But when he begins to doubt, their conjured transport… well, crashes. Now he’d like to go back to letting other, more experienced people—like the wizard Thurlock—take charge, take responsibility, and get him out of trouble. But there’s no going back. He’s going to have to step up.

Here’s what happens when Lucky and a grumpy wizard crash land in a collapsed Portal:

Lucky stopped, everything stopped, as he slammed up against something rough—hit it hard enough to bounce off and skid over another hard surface flat on his back. All remained dark, but Lucky had a sense that the darkness had changed, somehow taken on somethingness. It felt cold and carried a mineral smell, and perhaps he could even feel its elusive presence on his skin. Skin that burned from numerous scrapes and objected painfully to the rough surface on which he lay.

What the…? Yes, that must be it. I’ve died and this is the Ethran version of hell.

It seemed plausible. He could smell sulfur. Although he couldn’t quite put that together with the cold. Aside from that, he smelled damp and stone, and heard dripping, and…. Tik-tik-tik, tik-tik. Like beetles and spiders with either big feet or else tiny tap shoes.

He might be dead and it might be hell, or maybe not. The best way to find out for sure would be to investigate. As sore as every part of him was, the prospect of moving alarmed him, but he tried anyway. It wasn’t going to be easy. Every time he shifted anything larger than a finger or toe, either his head started spinning or pain exploded like a geyser.

Gritting his teeth, he raised his arms—glad they were still attached and still worked—and felt around for nearby surfaces.

Maybe I’m just in a coffin, not hell.

Nothing close on either side, apparently, so not a coffin. Doing his best to ignore the ache in his head, he sat up. Or he tried to sit up. He didn’t make it all the way before he cracked his forehead on another unforgiving, rough surface. His “Ouch!” echoed back at least four times.

Lucky found the way out of the collapsed Portal cave.Feeling around with his hands, he discovered a wall, probably rock, behind him. What he’d smacked his head on stuck out from the wall, but not far. He surmised the darkness was really inside a large hollow space, like a cave, which explained the echo. He said to himself (and possibly to the echo), “But… where the heck am I?”

“How the heck should I know?”

That voice came out of the dark and dead silence somewhere around Lucky’s feet. Startled, Lucky again tried to sit up, again smacked his head, and this time his “ouch” turned into a scream. Before he had time to think, he kicked his legs wildly in self-defense. His foot met flesh with a crack.

“Uufh,” the voice commented, and then after a few seconds, “Luccan, stop! It’s me, Thurlock!”

“Oh.” Lucky waited for the wizard to say something else. When that didn’t happen, he gathered up his courage and asked, “Are you all right?”

“We-e-ell,” Thurlock said.

Lucky had not been aware that so much drawling sarcasm could be stuck into one syllable. Thurlock stayed quiet for quite a few seconds, and Lucky supposed he should try to say something. Before he thought of what might work, Thurlock continued.

“Well, certainly,” the wizard said. “Certainly I’m all right, Lucky, unless you count my head, which feels cracked like a melon; my ribs, which you just kicked in, undoubtedly all set to puncture my lungs if the pain of breathing is any indication; and my fingers, which I somehow jammed between two rather hard, sharp objects—just a guess they might be rocks—as we arrived here in our luxury accommodations, which are of course the absolute epitome of comfort, albeit a bit cramped.”

A brief silence followed, and then Thurlock said, “Perhaps you should breathe, Luccan.”

Lucky realized he had indeed been holding his breath. He remedied that and started to say thank you, but Thurlock had more to say.

“Oh, and of course I do feel a bit spent, having had a rather full day jam-packed with exciting activities such as rescuing teenage boys—”

“Boy,” Lucky corrected.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Only one boy.”

“Luccan, I’m feeling a bit out of sorts. Continue to breathe without talking for a moment while I finish. Can you do that?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Not ‘sir,’ to you. Just Thurlock. As I was saying—”



Oh crap! I said that out loud. “Never mind, sorry.”

“Precisely. As I was saying, rescuing one single teenage boy, and battling one witch and one god, while short on rations. So yes, I feel like I’m a thousand years old.”

Thurlock’s voice had risen steadily on those two last sentences, and by the time he was done, Lucky could hear pebbles and sand falling, having been shaken loose, he thought, by the wizard’s booming voice.

Thurlock shifted and groaned and grunted. The bug feet went tik-tik-tik, and something somewhere continued to drip. After a while Lucky said, “Thurlock?”

No answer.



“You are a thousand years old.”

No response.


Tik-tik…. Drip….

Breathe, Lucky. “Thurlock?”

No response.

“I’m dizzy. Or something.”

The wizard grunted and said, “Post-translation.”


“It passes.”

Next Lucky heard a deep wizardish groan and the sound of loud breathing. And, of course, tik-tik-tik.



“I’m going to be sick.”

“Well, turn the other way, please!” The old man’s voice couldn’t have been gruffer, but Lucky felt a warm, familiar hand giving his ankle a reassuring squeeze. He lay still and he wasn’t sick, and he started to feel like he could tell up from down. He sighed in relief, but after he stopped worrying about throwing up and having his bearings, he started thinking about the situation, and fear came galloping in, riding roughshod over everything else.


Again, a squeeze of Lucky’s ankle. Tik-tik…. Drip-drip-drip….



“Are we going to die here?”

A snort, this time, and then a groan.

“Are we?”

Sigh. “Don’t be silly, Lucky. I’m a thousand-year-old wizard, and you’re a smart fifteen-year-old Suth Chiell. Surely we’ll think of something. Just give it a minute.”

Breathe, Luccan, breathe.

Silence. Darkness. Drip-drip-drip…. Cold.


“Still here.”

“Where’s everyone else?”

“Where we left them, I’m sure.”

“Are they okay? Han and everybody? Maizie?”

Silence. For a long time.

Thurlock cleared his throat. “I think so. I hope so. I can’t say for sure, because I’ve been with you. The last I saw them, they were outside the tower finishing off a fight with Isa’s people. And Han was preparing to finish off a great blue salamander.”

“A lizard?”


“Oh.” Lucky decided not to pursue that idea, because he had other things, other thoughts cropping up. Most troubling, he kept seeing his father as he was in the battle against the witch. His already maimed left side, his empty eye socket. But his amazing strength and skill in the fight, and… a smile just before he gave Lucky his cardinal name, and the peace he seemed to find in dying. There in the dark, Lucky sort of expected tears, but instead a vivid childhood memory bled through the remnants of the spell that had locked them away three years ago.

“I remember when I was a little boy. My father took me on his horse.”

“Yes, Luccan,” Thurlock said, not nearly as gruff. “He did.”

“He loved me… then.”

“He did.”

“He loved me when he came to the witch’s tower.”

“Yes.” Thurlock patted his ankle.

More silence followed, more darkness. More Tik-tik. Drip-drip-drip. Lucky shivered. He supposed he should try to think about getting out of this place, wherever it was, because it didn’t seem like the wizard was doing it. In fact, Lucky thought perhaps the old man had fallen asleep.


“Not dead yet.”

“Why don’t you make some light?”

“This is the collapsed entry to a Portal, Lucky, a vortex. I told you about vortices. Magic doesn’t work, remember?”

“Why don’t we go through the Portal, then?”

“Key word here, ‘collapsed.’”

Lucky decided to wait for Thurlock to get ready to do whatever he was going to do to get them out of this. He had utmost faith. To his credit, he was quiet for a long time, during which he counted thirty-one drips and forty-seven tik-tiks.


“I’m going to change my name.”

“I think there’s a glow. Over there.”

“A glow, huh? That could be useful.”

“Do you see it? Over there?”

“Well, Lucky.”

There was that sarcastic drawl again. Maybe Lucky had been mistaken when he thought the wizard’s mood had improved.

“For starters,” Thurlock said, “it’s very dark in here. Also, I’m keeping my eyes closed because my head hurts a little less that way, and with my eyes closed all I see are stars. With them open I see more stars—I think that might be my brain’s way of pretending there’s light in here. Judging from the increased pain in my head at those times, I’d say that has nothing at all to do with the reported glow. So you see,” he continued, “I can’t see your hand, and I will have no idea what direction you’re indicating no matter how many times you point and say, ‘Over there.’”

Lucky could tell the old man wasn’t himself—probably due to a head injury, he thought. Or rather, he was himself, only more so. Lucky tried to be understanding, tried to stay calm. But, even though Thurlock patted his ankle now and then and made a number of unpleasant old-man noises, Lucky felt like he was all alone with his thoughts, and the path they led him down wasn’t a pretty one.

Maybe we are going to die here. Maybe there’s no way out. Maybe that’s why Thurlock isn’t doing anything. Lucky shivered but then took his wandering mind firmly to task, determined not to rush to conclusions. If we were going to die, surely he’d be trying to comfort me. He’s just tired. I only need to wait.

He lay still, breathing, listening to the tiks and the drips, and the grunts, shuffles, and moans. He felt the air move over his skin. It felt odd, and it took a few seconds for him to realize what it meant.

“Thurlock? I feel a draft.”

“That must be refreshing. I feel pain and something hideous crawling on me.”

That bit of dry wit was all Lucky could bear. He felt pretty sure he was going to cry, and in his mind he counted off a list of reasons it wouldn’t matter if he did.

  1. They were going to die there.
  2. It was dark and no one would see him cry.
  3. They were going to die there.
  4. There was already a dripping noise so his tears would blend right in.
  5. They were going to die there.

Of course, none of the hideous background noises could hide the sob that escaped as he counted off number five.

The wizard sneezed, and then he spoke. “Lucky, listen, young man. Here’s what you should know at the moment. I am hurt and I feel sick. I’m sure it’s not serious—I’m pretty hard to kill—but for this moment I feel quite helpless. I do not like feeling helpless. I’m not at all used to it, and the result of it is that I am irritable.”

Tik-tik, drip. From Thurlock, a moment’s silence, but somehow Lucky knew he was only pausing for thought, so he waited.

“Well, more irritable than usual, I should say. In any case, don’t pay my grumpiness any mind. Truly, a glow and a draft—that’s very good. Exactly what we need. But as I said, I’m basically helpless right now. I’m going to need your help again. You know how getting out of a place like this works because you’ve done it before, when you landed in the cave on Earth. This time you’ve got a grouchy old man along for company. You can handle that, right?”

Thurlock waited, so Lucky very quietly said, “Right.”

“Try to get turned so you can move toward the glow and the draft—do they come from the same direction?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“Good. Okay. Go carefully, so you don’t get hurt or fall into a pit or something. Go slowly, so I can hold on to your ankle when we’re crawling, or your shoulder if we get to someplace we can walk. That way I won’t get lost, and as long as I’ve got hold of you, we’ll both know we’re in this together. I am sick and half-blind at the moment, but if we run into a problem, I might still be good to have around.”

When Thurlock stopped talking, it only took Lucky a few seconds to realize some response was probably a good idea. “Oh, uh, yes sir.”

“Good, but you don’t have to agree so enthusiastically.”

“Sorry, sir.”

“Just kidding, and stop calling me sir.”

Lucky wasn’t sure how he could tell, but he was pretty sure Thurlock was grinning. Then he turned serious again.

“But, young man, here’s what else is important. Are you listening?”

“Um….” Tik-tik…. Drip…. “Yes?”

“Good. Pay attention. I trust you, Luccan, Suth Chiell. I’d trust you with my life. I am trusting you with my life. But it’s not a problem. As you will someday come to know, I and a multitude of other people would follow you anywhere. So face that light, let me latch on, and lead me out of here.”


“Get used to it, Lucky, it’s your job.”

Tik-tik. Drip.

“Move it, boy!”

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Red Dragon

Wednesday Words—Sun Child series WIP

First, from Han’s Story

I’m thinking of this as a potential Kindle Vella story, so I won’t be posting many lines from it here or elsewhere. Still here’s a glimpse. I started out trying to tell the story of this character from The Sun Child Chronicles from the wizard Thurlock’s perspective. But Han’s voice is clearer, brighter, better for the purpose. In the series, he’s a man of few words, though when he does have something to say, it’s meaningful. He plays an important role in every book in the series, and the reader gets to know him fairly well over the course of the story, but taking this dive into Han Shieth’s mind and heart has proven enlightening even for me.


Red DragonI’ve been afraid of the dragon all my life. I know it’s difficult to believe, but I remember dreaming the dragon, dreaming of flying, before I could walk. As a boy, I learned to play with it, keeping it in a safe place in my mind that way. If it was a companion—pretend, I tried to convince myself—it wouldn’t, couldn’t hurt me.

Truly, my fear was more for others around me than it was for myself.

Because the dragon breathes fire. And I’d always known that.

Now, from The Sun Child Chronicles #5, Kaynenh’s Triad

I’ve chosen a couple of paragraphs from the never-before-published next installment in the series. As you can see from this glimpse of a morning on the road, Lucky’s collected quite a collection of friends over time. Including a young green dragon and a boyfriend. While the series is not romance, the characters’ take us into a couple of romantic sub-plots. After all, The Sun Child Chronicles delves into lives, and love stories are part of life.

WordsGreen dragon

Commotion woke Lucky well after dawn. A lot seemed to be going on around the camp, but flapping, green, leathery wings and a squawky voice that his brain readily translated for him was the first thing he truly saw.

“Sahsha! You’ve gotten so big,” Lucky said.

“Sahsha child, be big someday.”

Judging from the other dragons he knew—in particular Han Shieth—Lucky supposed that was true, but he realized with some sadness that Sahsha had already grown too big for her habit of riding on his shoulder. He hugged his loyal hatchling, though, and was delighted when Sahsha wrapped wings around him to hug back. He ignored Sahsha’s awful dragon breath and got up to take care of his own ablutions. As he crossed the camp, he saw more new arrivals. Recognizing most, he was happy to see all of them.

Henry stood with Han near Simarrohn, smiling at each other and conversing. Lucky loved seeing the two of them—his uncle and his friend—so clearly happy together, but it made him miss Rio harder. Thinking about his boyfriend, a chill crept up his spine with no obvious cause. He shivered and concentrated, trying to decide what had sent dread coursing through him. Rio. Something was wrong. Was Rio in danger? How could I know? But the truth was he knew something was happening. No, not danger, he answered himself, not now. But something is happening in Rio’s world—in Morrow’s land, and it’s… it’s going to change everything.


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The Oldest Wizard Speaks his Mind

Well, another week has gone by, and I am a few more miles down the road to getting my books back out into published world. Thanks for joining me. This week did not go as expected.


As I’ve mentioned before, I’m currently writing book 5 of The Sun Child Chronicles, Kaynenh’s Triad. I’ve introduced you to is Vahrenn, a new character in this book—a wizard with a magical affinity for water. I’ve just finished a scene of over 4,000 words involving a problem he had to tackle and solve. Cold, hard reality… possibly none of the scene will end up in the book. Not sure yet. But if it doesn’t—no regrets! I got to know Vahrenn much better in the process of writing the scene. And that’s important.

Characters and “Show, don’t tell”

For any writer whose writing thrives on character (as mine does), it is absolutely necessary to know more about your characters than will be written about. To clarify, the knowing imparts authenticity and integrity, and makes them a whole, round person. That will show in their actions, reactions, and words. It will show, but much of it won’t be told. Sure, I might mention dark eyes, or a toothless grin, or a six-pack. But I know way more about the character’s history, motivation, and fears than I’m ever going to spell out in print. Nowhere in writing is “show, don’t tell” so important.

No, that’s not a rule!

Oops. I almost sound like I’m dictating what writers should do or should avoid. And I can’t do that. My words are far from the final ones—only what works for me. At least most of the time. But Somerset Maugham said:

“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

And that same famous author of bygone days also said:

“You can never know enough about your characters.”

So then I rest my case. Sort of. Really, I’m just plugging along and learning as I go. That hasn’t changed since my earliest days as an author.

Characters are dangerous (but fun) drivers

One of the things I’ve done in my previous posts is introduce you to some of the characters in The Sun Child Chronicles. As I mentioned, characters drive my stories, and in fact, even though I might pretend they’re in the passenger seat. Any character of significance will grab the wheel and send us careening around an unexpected corner. Sometimes they even kick me right out of the car.

That’s part of what makes me want to come back to The Sun Child Chronicles. I love the characters, and they make writing fun. Also, there are a lot of them—more all the time, because as is usual in fantasy series, the story gets bigger with every book.

I interviewed the wizard Thurlock

Now, speaking of characters and knowing them, let me introduce you this week to Thurlock. He is the most important wizard in the series. A “helper” character who guides the main protagonist through, over, and around all sorts of difficult problems. Often grumpy, often laughing, sometimes kind, sometimes scary. A while back (when one of my books was being released), I interviewed him for another blog. And even though I already knew him pretty well, some of his answers surprised me. Here’s that interview, slightly modified. I hope you enjoy his grumpy-wizard self.

In his own words


I’ve been wondering about Thurlock ever since I met him. I mean the old wizard is kind of a mystery man, right? I recently caught him with a cell phone call on a day that he popped over to Earth for a Chai Tea Latte and some pumpkin bread with too much sugar icing. He wasn’t really happy about it, but he does know where his bread is buttered, so to speak…


Hey, Thurlock. Lou Hoffmann, here. You got a few minutes?

This is my off-page time, Ms. Hoffmann. Off-duty. Why are you calling me? Haven’t you put me through enough already? What with several more books about The Sun Child and me coming up, I’d think you’d have plenty more trouble to make for me without seeking me out on my private time.

Well, Jeez, Thurlock. I got to thinking people must really wonder about you—”

Portrait-- old wizard Thurlock The Sun Child Chronicles

“Do they, now?”

“I think so. You’re interesting. I mean 1000 years old—”

“Now you’re just being mean.”

“No, really. I thought you might answer a few questions.”

“I’m rolling my eyes, now. Thought I’d tell you since this is a phone call. I mean, I can’t do the eye-roll as good as Luccan, or even as good as Han, but it is a problem with non-face-to-face communication that gestures and facial expressions can’t be seen. I’ve been studying this phenomenon and have found research, mostly by Earthborns, that shows—

“Thurlock, you’re rambling.”

“Oh yes, sorry. I was. Never mind then, let’s just get to the point.”

“Okay, questions. Before I start, though, I know I’m supposed to know you best, and I’ll be honest. Some of these questions I’m going to ask I’m pretty sure I know the answers to. Answer anyway, if you would, and feel free to surprise me with the truth.”

“Shouldn’t be hard to do…”

Where and when were you born? Tell us what your childhood was like?

I was born a very, very long time ago, in the northern part of the Sunlands, on the western outskirts of the Greenwood. The place was called Kharravale; we had a farm a mile or so from the village. My childhood…. How rarely I think of it now. I guess if nothing else I could indeed be thankful that you brought it to my mind. It… It wasn’t all good, of course. No childhood is, but as I look back through this vast stretch of time, it seems wonderful. Golden and filled with sun—perhaps Behlishan had chosen me even then, though I didn’t feel chosen as I ran in the fields. I loved the smell of the earth—you know, mud, pines and oak and maple, mown hay, wild honeysuckle. I never wanted to go indoors until winter came, and then only for hours at a time. The snow would fall heavy and deep and stay clean and white for a month. We had toboggan races, we children. And when parents went visiting it was by sleigh rather than wagon. Even the horses liked it better I think. Or maybe they just knew hot mash would be waiting, the same way we looked forward to sweet tea and honey cakes. Oh yes, it was a beautiful thing to be a boy in that place in that time. I suppose if I thought of the future at all, I thought I’d live out my years right there in the valley, perhaps raise my own children, run the family’s farm. But I went to school instead.

That leads me nicely to my second question—or perhaps I should say set of questions, Thurlock. When did you start your formal education, and how long did it last? Did you enjoy school, or want to go back to an easier time? Did you have a favorite teacher, or is there one who left a giant footprint on who you were to grow up to be?

Was I rambling? I’m sorry. And yes, you should say set of questions. Be accurate when you bother a wizard, Lou. To answer your question, I started early and I didn’t dislike school, but I did miss being a child, and being home. In those days, in that place, most children didn’t go to school at all, but when they were around twelve or so, the parents would contrive to get a batch together and teach them to read and add better, things like that. But Kharravale, you know, was named after the Kharrighan, and it was full of his descendants. Almost a tribe, or at the least a clan. Every generation sported a few young people with higher than average magical talent. I was not only among the best of my cohort, but manifested enough power, starting when I was ten, to scare my elders. By the time I’d had my eleventh birthday they’d made arrangements with a small wizarding preparation school in Nedhra City, and I never lived at home again, though I did treasure my visits. I did have a favorite teacher! Her name was Yolahnda O’Shanadah. I learned absolutely nothing from her. I was fourteen when I started studying with her and I instantly became infatuated. As far as the giant footprint, that was left by a very old man named Thomkit. An historian and a seer. I never learned to do what he did, but he taught me how to read and respect the prophecy, and how to disregard them for the sake of letting things unfold.

Did you have a best friend in your school days—tell s about them? Do you have one now?

I did have a best friend. He was Drakha, and every bit as heroic and beautiful as Han Shieth, though a hunter like Han’s brother, rather than a warrior. He’s one of the many, many friends I’ve watched grow old and die while I linger here far beyond my time. And yes. In honesty, though I’d say our relationship is quite complex, one of the things Han Shieth has become is my friend—the best of those few I have.

I’m sorry. Maybe talking about bygone days is making you sad. Probably I shouldn’t ask any more questions about the past, but I do have one more I’d like to slip in, if you’ll allow it. Were you ever so in love you thought you’d spend the rest of your life with someone, even if it meant giving up your position as a prominent wizard?

Yes. (Silence). We-e-ell, it looks as though you’re not going to let me leave it at that. Did anyone ever call you a busybody, Lou? No? They should have. But fine. I’ve loved two people that much. The first was a girl I met at a tea shop near a famous theater in Nedhra City. I saw her every day for a year. She was… I think in Earth you’d call her a transwoman, perhaps, though in Ethra we just call a woman a woman. She was the most easy-going, the least serious person I knew at the time. She was fully engaged with living life and had no great need to address the world’s problems. We ate and walked and went places around the city, or out to the countryside a few times. We talked about art and music and plays and the weather and her crazy clothes and her garden and… you know,  just everything. And we made love and—oh I know some people think I should have had a problem with that. As Han says, men are not my type. But she wasn’t a man you see, and as far as the love-making went, everything fit together just fine and it all worked splendidly from my point of view. But I was studying, you understand, and at a certain point it became clear that I’d have to pay a little more attention to wizardry or else give it up. I chose give it up. She chose to write me a note and leave on the mantel piece for me, and I never saw her again. And the second person… Well, the second person was Isa. Yes, the woman you know as the Witch Mortaine, the one Luccan and I dismantled with Behl’s help in Black Creek Ravine. Yes, she was beautiful once, and elegant, even understanding, though perhaps never truly compassionate, certainly never sweet. But oh she took me by surprise, like cold water on a hot day. It ended when I tried to save her from her fate, and as repayment she tried to kill me. No more about my past now. Please. I’m becoming melancholy and that makes my blood pressure go up.

Tell us your honest opinion of Lucky—or Luccan as you know him. Do you enjoy being around him? Does he annoy you?

Oh, certainly he annoys me, but what 1000-year-old man is not annoyed by someone who’s 16? The sheer amount of energy the boy possesses drives me crazy. And the questions. Behl’s toenails! I’ve never heard so many questions, and so strange. Do you know what he asked me? “If life wasn’t life, what would it be?” I didn’t even try to answer—and you shouldn’t either Lou. Yet, Luccan has more of the true Suth Chiell about him than any I’ve seen since I became cognizant of what a Suth Chiell should be. And aside from that, he is a strong, kind, compassionate human being. And delightful—his humor, his smile, his wonderful curious mind. I think of him as a grandchild, though I know that’s ludicrous. I love him. And I pin my hopes for the future on him, with not a single doubt or qualm. Are we about done now, Ms. Hoffmann? My chai is getting cold, and I do have plans for the day.

I’m sorry, Thurlock. As you said, this is your personal time. I had no right to impinge and I do appreciate you answering my questions. I had wanted to ask you about Han… you know, the dragon thing? And also what your thoughts are on the future of Ethra in general. But I’ll cut it short with one more question I’ve been wondering about since I met you. Are you immortal?

Oh! Gods, I hope not.


The end

And Thurlock hung up on me. I guess I should be grateful for what we did get.


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