Upstate NY in September: Monday Blog Post

 

Adirondack Fall by Randy Cockrell

 

It’s mid-September and while the days are hot and humid, thee trees and plants are starting the process to turn color. I saw a sumac in bright red two days ago. A lone sentinel in its party dress, ready for the fall gala. But the rest are just beginning to lose that fresh green color. All that’s needed is a frost. That could come at any time. It’s not unusual for it to be hot one day and a frost to appear overnight.

For this area, October is the party. Scarlett, orange, yellows of every shade, and bronze are common in the Adirondacks. The days are mild and the nights cold. The drop in humidity leaves the sky a clear sapphire. October sky I’ve always called it. A color and clarity that only October brings. The above picture is from a couple of years ago. A good example.

Mom and I are prepping for her trip to Arizona. Doctors, medical equipment companies, and multiple emails and faxes are involved. Good thing I was a project manager.

So that’s it for now. I managed a flash story for last Friday and with luck, I’ll have one for this coming Friday.

Take care.

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Water: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Water

I checked the temperature on my phone as I wiped the sweat dripping down my temple. Eighty-six. Not really that hot. But the morning weather report said the humidity was supposed to be at nearly ninety today. It felt like it. I walked on.  I was thirsty. My map listed the next water source as twelve miles away. I had a liter and a half of water left. I took a swallow to moisten my mouth and thought about all of the advice about what to do when you were short of water.

As a hiker it wouldn’t be the first time I’d face a lack of water on this through-hike, but this was the first time since I’d started my trip. One school of thought was to drink sparingly until the next water source was reached. Wetting my mouth was in this vein. On the other hand, some people thought it was better to drink my fill, store the water in my body where it was needed anyway. Camel up, some called it.

I hitched my pack and adjusted the right strap. It was another two miles before I took another drink. Ten miles to go to the spring. Time to make a decision. I took a deep breath, then drank my fill. Cameling up it is, I thought. I just hope this isn’t a mistake. I trudged on, three-quarters of a liter of water left.

The next part of the trail was uphill. Olive Mountain it was called on the map. Halfway up, I was on the south side of the mountain, shadeless, and the trail was a rock scramble. My breathing was heavy and my mouth was dry but I resisted taking another drink. At the top, I told myself as I struggled over the rocks. The trail switchbacked up the mountainside. I never understood why a mile going uphill seemed longer than a mile on the level. I reached the top and took a moment to look around. This mountain was bald and the view was three hundred and sixty degrees of awesome. That was one of the best things about back-packing. It felt like the whole world was mine alone. A breeze helped cool me and I rewarded myself with another big drink. My water bladder was about a quarter full when I finished.

Eight more miles. The trail down the mountain went fast and the next part of the trail meandered through a swamp. The mosquitos were fierce and once past the swamp I stopped in the shade of a tree to dig some hydrocortisone cream out of my pack. The bug bites were already itching. While putting the lotion on, I wished for the breeze that was at the top of Olive Mountain. The sweat ran down my back. I flapped the back of my shirt, trying to dry off. That was a waste of time. There were five miles to go.

I eyed my water bladder. Drink the rest of the water now or wait another mile or two? I reached over and grabbed the bladder. Then drank it all. I was sweating so much, I really needed to drink. It would have been nice if the water was cold but beggars couldn’t be choosers. I packed everything up and pulled on my pack. Five miles would be about two hours. I started hiking. Two hours without water. In this heat. I was going to be thirsty.

As I hiked I started thinking about the water source at my destination. It had been a dry summer. Some of the trail’s water sources had dried up. I sincerely hoped that this one was still good or I was going to be in big trouble. I didn’t even want to think about having to hike without water. Just thinking about it made me thirsty. The trail wound out of the woods and into a wide-open grassland. The mid-afternoon sun beat down and I took off my hat, wiped my face and put the hat back on. Trudging on, the grassland lasted about a mile, then back into the woods. My shirt was soaked and I wanted water but it was gone. I cleared my mind. Forget about the water, I told myself. I hummed a tune, then took notice of all the flowers I passed and birds flying by. Another mile went by. Three to go.

It had been just an hour since my last drink, but I was thirsty. I dug a piece of hard candy out of my pack and popped that into my mouth. That helped. Anything I could do to trick my body into thinking it had water. The next mile went pretty fast. Then the next section was another climb. A deep breath and on I trudged. Up, up, up, a rocky trail that threatened my ankles.

I didn’t have enough spit in my mouth to swallow and my tongue was sticking to the roof of my mouth as I gasped for breath. I sure hoped the water source wasn’t dried up. The next water was six more miles away and I really didn’t want to have to hike six thirsty miles in the dark and try to find the water once I got there.

The sun was setting, and I was going slower. One more mile I told myself. Then you’ll get your drink. I went down the other side of the mountain, glad for the downhill. The sign post for the camp site was on my left, pointing out the trail. Four hundred feet. I straggled into the site. There were three other hikers already there. “Water?”

“Over there,” a young woman pointed.

I hurried over. A small spring trickled out of the side of the hill. Someone had dug out small pool lined with rocks. I dug out my cup and scooped water into my bladder and added the water treatment. Half an hour to wait for it to work and a nice cool drink.

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Where Am I?: Monday Blog Post

Where are the daily blog posts, you may ask? Simple. My mom has taken a turn and I flew to upstate New York to work with the rest of my family on her health care. I’ve been busy each day keeping her alert and engaged. That doesn’t leave much room for daily blog posting. I’ve been here a week and even though I have a camera and a camera on my phone, I haven’t taken a single picture. The one above is from a couple of weeks ago.

So that’s it for now. I managed a flash story for last Friday and with luck, I’ll have one for this coming Friday.

Take care.

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Working: Friday Flash Fiction Post

Captain

Working

I juggled my cell as I maneuvered eight dog leashes. The pooches, all regulars, were good dogs but each one wanted to smell something in a different direction. “Mr. Malony, I have an opening for an interview between three and five pm.”

I jerked Fluffy away from a discarded food wrapper. The fat little Pekinese would eat anything, then puke it up once she got home and her owner would call and ream me a new one. “Yes, sir. At the moment I have appointments up till three.” I rolled my eyes. The appointment was another job. Not this one, this one was the first job. Six in the morning till eight, walking dogs. The same gig, would that be job three or four, between six and eight. The second job was barista at a coffee shop who could only pay me for four hours, five days a week. Between noon and three was ticket seller at a downtown theater. Not the best theater, by the way, but the manager thought that a pretty girl in the booth would sell more ticket in the slow period. So that leaves three to five for my interview.

I jerked Sammy away from an oncoming owner walking her husky. Sammy was always eager to prove his dogliness to any passing dog. “Yes, sir. I’ll be there.” I clicked off. I really wanted the job. A real, eight hours per day, real pay and holidays and benefits. I could give up all these pitiful make do gigs to pay the rent.

My share of the rent, that is. Six women in a three-bedroom apartment. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of them but there is always a fight for the bathroom and paranoia over the food in the fridge. It would be so great to be able to have my own place or at least a share with just one other person.

My phone rang. “Hey, mom.”

“Hey sweetie. How’s it going?”

I pulled a doggie waste bag from my pocket and scooped up Freddie’s contribution. While I tied the bag shut, I said, “Great mom. How about you?”

“Great, honey. Your father and I booked a cruise to Tahiti for next month. Can you go? We’d love it if you’d join us.”

I sighed. “I don’t think so, Mom. I’m going for an interview this afternoon. I don’t want to commit to anything in the future till I know if I’ve got the job.”

“That’s great, sweetie! I’ve been wondering why you’ve been doing those make shift jobs.”

I had to shake my head. They refused to understand that it wasn’t 1950 any longer. Dad’s corporate job lasted thirty-five years. He did the whole promotion every other year, gold watch on retirement, the climb up the social ladder. Mom, of course, was the socialite on dad’s arm. She’d held a job just after college, where she met dad, and that was her entire working life. They were disappointed in me, not getting a big corporate job right out of college.

Dad got me interviews, of course. But the new corporations were all about the “contractors”. People they could hire short term, pay a salary agreed to on a contract, then they wouldn’t have to pay retirement or benefits. No one was interested in a career path for me like the one dad had. That was way too expensive.

“Doing my best, mom. I hope I make the new job.”

“We do too, hun. Well, let us know, would you?”

“Sure, mom. Sure.”

She hung up and I clicked off with a shake of my head. She seemed to think this was a lifestyle choice. Who would want to be on a constant hustle for enough money to pay rent and eat? But it seemed the majority of the people my age were doing exactly that. It wasn’t a choice, it was a necessity. Businesses just didn’t want full time employees. They cost too much. Stockholders wanted bigger and bigger returns. CEO’s wanted bigger and bigger paychecks.

I tugged Maybelle away from a parking spot that had what looked like a transmission fluid puddle. Then stopped the whole procession to pick up Raylar’s droppings. Very glamorous, being a dog walker, but I did appreciate the exercise. The ticket gig was creepy. The barista job was hardly better. Every would-be self-appointed ladies man made a pass. Why couldn’t they just order their coffee and move along? And none of their lines were original or clever. I liked the dogs better and the happy owners tipped well.

At three-fifteen I was at the office building, tugging my skirt straight and smoothing my hair. I took a deep breath and went in. Oh. My stomach dropped. A panel interview, three people. I smiled at all three of them as I entered. They had me sit and introduced themselves. At the end, I thanked them, left them with my resume, references and my card.

It didn’t feel like they liked me. I thought about my mom and her invitation to cruise. Oh yes. I’d like to cruise. But that was not in the cards. My last day off was six months ago, only because I’d lost an earlier job taking tickets at a parking garage.

I went home. There was two hours before my evening dog walking gig. I changed and ate a can of ravioli as my supper and ran the interview through my head over and over.

I was in the middle of the night dog walk when my cell rang.

“Hello, Mr. Donnah.”

“Ms. Roman, the panel loved your interview. Would you be interested in starting Monday?”

It felt like my heart had stopped. “Yes, sir! I would!”

“Excellent. We’re emailing some basic information for you. See you Monday.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you and the board.”

“You’re welcome.”

I did a little dance right on the sidewalk. Finally! A way out.

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The Universe Calls: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Lightning in the Night Sky

The Universe Calls

When I was seven I could hear the whispers. I told my mom about them but she said I was thinking of the voices on the television.

When I was ten, the voices were louder. Not loud enough to make out what was being said, but they were there. After years of telling my parents, I finally understood that they couldn’t hear the whispers and didn’t want to know about them either. I kept the voices to myself.

Every year the voices grew louder, until I could clearly hear them. No one else I knew heard voices, so I kept it to myself, even when they became so loud it was hard to hear the teachers in school, or even mom and dad or my sister or brothers.

I kept to myself and surprisingly, it didn’t take long for people, even my family, to just kind of, overlook me. My brothers were so boisterous that they attracted all of the attention. What they didn’t attract, my sister did as she acted out with skirts too short and boy friends too wild. My parents had all they could handle. I wasn’t a problem so they just left me alone.

By the time I was sixteen, I could tell who in school might be like me. We were the outsiders. Not picked on, just hanging around the fringes. Slowly, I made friends with them. It wasn’t easy to draw them out. Like me, they’d learned to keep quiet. Eventually, though, we had our own table in the cafeteria.

The others had their own gifts. That’s what we decided to call them. Carl was a math whiz. He could see the answer to any math problem. Secretly he’d gone to the biggest university web sites and pulled their math department’s toughest problems. He’d solved them all but didn’t tell them. He worked with Gillian, who was a computer hacking genius, to break into the government’s sites and find their hardest problems. He solved them as well. Tony was a mechanic. He could fix anything. Along with Claire, who could design anything, they built some fantastic new devices, but we didn’t share. Bob was a plant guru and Cecelia could manipulate light. Sound was Patel’s gift. He could make it open, close, build or destroy.

By the time we’d graduated, we’d cracked Wall Street and all of the overseas financial markets and purchased land and had housing and labs built. We told our parents, the ones who cared, anyway, that we were going on a walk-about. My parents both cried as they protested they didn’t know where the time had gone and they hardly knew me.

That was an understatement. We went to our secret hideaway and called others like us from around the world to join us. The voices kept us busy. They wanted us to build all of this great tech. They pointed out where we could improve things. Soon we had kids, well, young adults, now, come who were charismatics. We started them on political paths as the rest of us prepared.

It took a lot of time as we maneuvered our politicians into place in each country. Our military experts had to run interference several times but by the time I was fifty, we were ready.

We’d changed the laws, planet wide. Kids received proper schooling, food, and medicine. More and more children had the gift and we put them to use. Warfare fell away and the last dictator was gone. Cities were cleaned up and the environment, close to collapse when I was a girl, was recovering.

That’s when the voices told me to assemble our leaders. Not the politicians, but the leaders of our little group that I had assembled decades before. I was the conduit, where we’d received our instructions so far.

I spoke as the main voice in my head spoke.

“We congratulate you all,” said the voice who called itself Notion. “You’ve worked hard and followed our instructions. Well done.”

The group in front of me cheered. When they quieted, Notion continued.

“It’s time for us to join you. And for you to join us. We will arrive in a week. Meet us at the spaceport you’ve built. We’ll be together at last!”

There was much cheering at that and while the others asked me what else Notion was saying I could only shake my head. Notion was gone.

Preparations were made. A band was assembled, the best of our musicians that existed. Bunting was raised along with a speaker’s platform. No instructions for the kind of housing Notion and the others needed were given but we prepared an entire hotel with every kind of food Earth had to offer available.

The day arrived, and we were ready. I was on the platform, along with the original group. The ship, if it could be called that, landed. A bright ball of energy and smaller energy balls separated from it. They floated over to us. I could hear Notion.

“Greetings, children.”

I repeated the words before I realized that everyone could hear it speak. It continued as we all gaped in surprise.

“We are grateful for your diligence. We appreciate your efforts.”

I watched as other balls of energy left the ship and as the ship shrank. A ball of energy hovered over each person present. Other balls of energy drifted away. Notion hovered in front of me.

“And you, Cheyenne, we thank you most of all. It’s time for your reward.”

I was surprised. What reward? No reward had ever been mentioned. We were just saving our planet.

Notion drifted closer. Its light was blinding but not hot. I turned my face up to it as it drifted closer. I wasn’t afraid. I closed my eyes. I could feel it touch me, a tingling. Then warmth crept over my whole body. There was a flash of pain, then nothing.

Notion shivered, then made itself draw a breath. It opened its new eyes. “Ah. That’s nice.”

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Happy Hour: Daily Blog Post

 

Hey!

Saturday was Happy Hour. This is a get together with a lot of other people to enjoy a pot luck, some music and dancing and a glass of wine or two. In previous years it has been held monthly but this year there just weren’t enough volunteers to do that so it was held last night and we had a ton ‘o fun. I did anyway. I’ve been looking forward to this all summer. Picture above.

I managed some work on my Gulliver Station box set on every day but Friday and Saturday and made a lot of progress. Since Saturday have finished formatting the Smashwords edition and updated the Kindle edition. Monday I uploaded both and they should be available to download now.

It’s just 1 week until the Northern Gila County Fair. I love county fairs and hope that if you’re in the area, you can come by and see the fabulous work our local ranchers, farmers, backyard gardeners and crafters do. The horse show was yesterday, the 25th. You can find out more about our fair at www.NGCFair.com.

That’s it for today! Hope your Tuesday is just fantastic!

The Gulliver Station ebook box set released July 30th, 2018. You can buy it at Amazon today. You can also see all my books on http://conniesrandomthoughts.com/my-books-and-other-published-work/. If you’ve read any of my books, please drop a short, honest, review on the site where you bought it or on Goodreads. It’s critical to help me promote the books to other readers. Thanks in advance.

Thank you for reading my blog. Like all of the other work I do as an author, it takes time and money. If you enjoy my Monday blog and the Friday free story and the recipe I put up on the 25th of every month, consider donating to https://www.paypal.me/ConniesRandomThought. I appreciate any donation to help support this blog.

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Other Posts, County Fair, Gulliver Station Box Set: Monday Blog Post

Home grown peaches with homemade coconut yogurt

Newest News:

I meant to post my blog titled Life Tips: https://wp.me/p6LAko-1bu, for Sunday, but somehow or other posted it Friday, with another post. No idea why I did that but there it is. Then on Saturday, I wrote and posted my monthly Chicklets in the Kitchen blog, this month on three ingredient coconut yogurt. You can check that out at: https://wp.me/p6LAko-1bz. All of that to say, I thought I wouldn’t have to write another post for Sunday, but nope. Had to write a new one on Saturday. Good thing, I cranked out words on Saturday! LOL!

The Northern Gila County Fair (Sep 6 – 8) set up is in one week. As the Director for the Exhibits (non-livestock), I start working on Tuesday, September 4th. By Thursday, when the fair opens at 5pm, I’m already exhausted. By Saturday at 9pm when the Exhibits tent closes, I’m done but still, have to show up Sunday so exhibitors can pick up their exhibits. Don’t get me wrong. I love the fair. So many people have great talents in so many areas and I certainly hope that if a visitor sees something they are interested in, they’ll contact that exhibitor or the hobby group to get involved and learn more. That’s the best thing about the fair—the chance to pass along expertise! Hope you can come; www.NGCFair.com for schedules of events and operating hours.

This week I’ll be finishing the Gulliver Box set. Sunday I finished formatting the edited version for Amazon. This week will be getting the new one up on Amazon and on Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/conniecockrell) then formatting the paperback version and getting it up on Createspace. Awesome! Done just before the fair. After the fair I’m editing Slave Elf and putting my new covers on the Brown Rain books. Also changing the interior files to add cute little graphics to the beginning of each chapter. That particular project should go quickly as the books are short. Wish me luck!

Giveaways:

The 2018 Authors/Bloggers Summer Giveaway is in progress at https://conniesrandomthoughts.com/giveaways-and-prizes/. There’s $80 as a Grand Prize Paypal Cash and 27 books and 27 prizes available to win.

Newsletter Sign Up:

Click here to sign up for my newsletter. I’ve put sign-up gifts on the regular and the SciFi/Fantasy and the Cozy Mystery newsletter sign-ups. That’s right. If you sign up for my newsletter you get a free story from me. Be prepared for fun and contests! Click on the video link for a short video from me. Hear what I’m working on. Join my “A” Team to be the first to read my books and hear what new books are coming.

Don’t forget to follow my blog, too. Different material goes in the blog as in the newsletter. You can share both, so spread the word!

Newest Book Release:

The Gulliver Station ebook box set released July 30th, 2018. You can buy it at Amazon today. You can also see all my books on http://conniesrandomthoughts.com/my-books-and-other-published-work/. If you’ve read any of my books, please drop a short, honest, review on the site where you bought it or on Goodreads. It’s critical to help me promote the books to other readers. Thanks in advance.

Thank you for reading my blog. Like all of the other work I do as an author, it takes time and money. If you enjoy this Monday blog and the Friday free story and the recipe I put up on the 25th of every month, consider donating to https://www.paypal.me/ConniesRandomThought. I appreciate any donation to help support this blog.

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Three Ingredient Coconut Yogurt: Chicklets in the Kitchen Blog Post

 

Home grown peaches with homemade coconut yogurt

I have to say, the last three to four weeks I’ve pretty much blown off doing my paleo lifestyle. I re-introduced grains in the form of gluten-free bread and pizza crust, have been eating ice cream with homemade chocolate shell, and even gotten into the Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. (Peanuts are a no-no on paleo, not to mention the sugar.) Sigh.

Then I’m also stressed about the upcoming Northern Gila County Fair. I’ve introduced on-line exhibit registration and from what I can tell, it’s not being used. That means it’s going to be a lot of hands-on exhibit registration again this year. But I’ll have to input all of that hand-written stuff again, manually, into the fair database. Another sigh.

Anyway, this month I decided to do a video about this three-ingredient coconut yogurt. You can see from my face the result of eating the grains and dairy and sugar. Ugh. Back on the paleo I go. In the meantime, though, I’ll have lots of this delish yogurt to help me stay on my path. Clear skin, here I come.

 

Three Ingredient Coconut Yogurt

Hardware

Saucepan

Large Pot

2 Quart Measuring cup

1 Cup Measuring cup

3 One-pint canning jars

Tongs

Rubber Spatula

 

Ingredients

1 T/1 package unflavored gelatin

3 Cans (40.5 fluid ounces) coconut milk

4 capsules live probiotic (The more strains of probiotic the better. I used Solaray, mycrobiome probiotic, 30 billion live cultures, 24 strains. Live probiotics are kept in the refrigerated section of your local health food store.)

1/2 cup water

 

I made my first ever cooking video to show you how to do this. The video is hilarious as I made all sorts of mistakes. No matter. I think you’ll get the gist and you’ll have a laugh with me as you watch. See it here: https://youtu.be/0f-E_E41I24

Directions: See the rest here!

 

NOTE: You’ll notice that aside from canning jars, I don’t use any equipment you don’t already have in your kitchen. Canning jars are generally available by the dozen in your local hardware stores, but I know I can also find them in the local thrift shops. ALWAYS use new canning jar lids (the flat part with the thin rubber circled edge.) This is essential to making sure you get a good seal on the canning jar. (This is less critical for the yogurt.) If you’re canning fruit or vegetables or jam/jelly, you have to get a good seal to keep the food safe. The rings that hold the lids are reusable.

Enjoy that fresh tangy flavor. In addition to having it as a snack or breakfast with fruit and nuts, you can also use your yogurt in homemade salad dressings, in place of some of the mayo in your macaroni or tuna salads, as part of your pancake toppings and so much more.

Thanks for stopping by Chicklets in the Kitchen. Do you have a favorite snack or dessert to serve family or guests? Please tell us about it in the comments box below if you feel so inclined.

My name is Connie Cockrell and I write SciFi, Fantasy, Mysteries, and a lot of other things and you can find links to all of my books at www.ConniesRandomThoughts.com.

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Oldest Life Lessons: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Oldest Life Lessons

It seemed like just a few days ago I was sitting, well, all right, fidgeting, in the seat my young pupil was in. Might have been the same exact stool.
I watched him as I settled. Ten years old. Brown mop of hair hanging in his eyes. Flirting with the girl beside him, though I suspect they didn’t realize it was flirting. I’ll have to tell the Ward of Novices about that but not right now. Let them enjoy their little moment.
I tapped my cane on the stone floor and the children turned, reluctantly as I remember my time, to face me. I looked into all of their shining faces. Bored already, a good number of them. The girl, though, what was her name? Oh yes, Naiomi. And the boy, Azri, both looked expectant. I nodded. We could tell, who will be a good mage and who just average, even though the novices were in their second year. The ones who actually listened. They would be great.
This year was no different. I was just a middling-mage myself. I was one of the ones already bored. But no matter. I am good enough to teach the young ones. And too old, really, for anything else.
I had my dreams, of course. I’d be a great mage and save the Emperor from some dastardly dragon or an evil demon. That never came to pass. First of all, because dastardly dragons and evil demons are few and far between. Most often the problems are so common that even my middling powers could handle them. But secondly, the really hard problems are for these, Naiomi and Azri, who had the power and the education to handle them.
I sighed and began the class on basic spells. I’d given this class for the last fifty-three years. I could keep up a running internal dialog while I gave them the class. Mostly, though, I wondered where my life had gone? What did I have to show for it besides a handful at best of great mages and a few hundred average ones?
What would these bright young faces before me think if they knew how their lives would turn out? Most of them would be sent to small towns and villages to help the councils keep the peace and handle any sicknesses that might emerge. Lives of drudgery, really, and no family of their own to ease their loneliness. No children, unless you count the ones in our classes, to leave a legacy for.
I drew my shawl around me as we discussed what makes a good spell. I’d been getting colder and colder for more than a year now. Just winter coming on, I told myself. And age, of course. No getting around that.
I was lucky. After doing a few stints with various mages in villages and towns, I was called back to Castle Porta to teach. Life here was more comfortable. The food was better and came reliably. I still remember the year I was with Mage Selean in the village called Thorson. Snow drifted to the eaves and even the wood had to be rationed. Many elderly and young died from the cold or starvation or both. No. I enjoyed my three meals a day, thank you very much. And a hot tea whenever I wanted to send my intern for it.
That’s a good life lesson. Don’t be in a situation where you’re freezing or starving. The children were startled at my wheezing snort. I covered it quickly as a sneeze and they settled back down. We finished the class with a simple spell. One each of us learned in our turn. It was also a sorter. The children who couldn’t manage the spell were sent back to their villages. Or if they were smart or talented in some other way, we kept them on. After all, much has to be done to keep a castle running that doesn’t need magic.
When I released them, the children leapt from their stools as though a wolf were after them. I sat, slumping. Resting. You’d think their energy would feed mine but no. Another lesson. They suck the energy right away. I rested, half-dozing. My intern, Katarina, woke me with a hand on my shoulder. “Master Wheren?”
I gave myself a shake as I woke. “Yes. Yes. I’m awake.”
She helped me to my rooms. Had me sit in front of the fire and brought me tea. I woke again in bed.
Drean stood next to the bed. The old mage raised an eyebrow. “With us still, I see.”
“And why is the castle healer at my bedside?” I looked around my bedroom. “And where is Katarina?”
“I sent her for tea. And I’m here because she couldn’t wake you.”
I struggled to sit up. Embarrassingly, he helped me. “I can do it.” I slapped at his arms as he helped me.
“I know. Just thought a helping hand would be welcome.”
“Hmph.” I pulled the bedding up to my chin as Katarina arrived with a tray.
“Master!” Her face lit up as she put the tray on the table. “I’m so glad.”
Later, I watched her sleep in the chair beside my bed. The fireplace was burning very low. Probably close to dawn. She was so young. Given me as a nurse more than for what I could teach her. I sighed. Again. Too much sighing lately. I tucked my hands under the blankets. I was too cold, but I settled into the pillows and closed my eyes. The last life lesson, I suppose. At least I wasn’t alone.

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