Azar set Kleitos Leonidas’ water – with its precise double helix of lemon and orange peel twined around four cubes of ice – on the small table between their two chaises. “I gotta say, boss, this is a great place.” He clambered into his own chair with an umbrella-topped Mai Tai. “I thought we were going to blow this Popsicle stand as soon as you nabbed me back from Moru, and good riddance. But,” he ratcheted the chaise back a notch and spread stick-like arms to soak up the August heat, “a body could get used to this. I almost feel dried out again.”
Jordan was drawn to Zosima Panopolis from her first Mountain Pose. Who knew just standing could look so good? The flared black yoga pants and black tank top, the glossy raven hair cropped short except for a single scarlet micro-braid tossed over her left shoulder, the heavy black eye liner and burgundy shadow should have been hopelessly goth. But somehow she carried it as if she were heading off to her next ninja assassination contract as soon as class was over.
He was glad he’d let Ashley browbeat him into coming to yoga. “So I got a little back twinge helping you move. It was just dumb luck.”
“You’re the classic ‘weekend warrior.’” She stuffed her laptop into her bag. “You sit in front of a keyboard ten hours a day, go home and play video games, and then come Saturday you expect your body to behave as if you’ve been training for a marathon the rest of the week. You’re getting too old for it.”
“Snow White.” The syllables spun forth from the king’s lips and onto her shoulders like an unwanted mantle as he stepped from his sleigh. Well, she wouldn’t have to wear it long. Regicide was a capital crime in the realm; if she were taken she could expect little more of her brief free life than a few weeks in chains and the executioner’s axe. “So this is how it ends.”
The woods woman hated winter. Game was scarce and shy. Chill winds skittered beneath the door and seeped between the windowpanes. And though she cherished her solitude, weeks cooped up in a tiny cottage as blizzard after blizzard howled outside could drive anyone a little around the bend.
There was another reason she despised the season, buried so deep in her psyche she scarcely thought about it anymore. Three drops of blood fallen in the snow and a mother’s heartfelt wish. Would that my little daughter may be as white as that snow, as red as the blood, and as black as the ebony window-frame!
The morning after his courting of Sylvie, Kleitos Leonidas rose before dawn began to pink the eastern sky, turned off the lights she habitually left blazing all night to annoy her neighbors and threaded his way through the oaks to the lake’s edge. The moon had gone down some hours before and had anyone been up to observe they might have wondered how he managed to move so easily by only the weak illumination of the stars.
He tamped tobacco into his pipe, lit it, and stood gazing into the water for some minutes. During the night frost had crept from the shore to the lake shallows, and the same observer might wonder how Kleitos could stand unmoving, barefoot and bare-chested, apparently unperturbed by the chill morning air. Because of course in this world of science and reason, there are no such things as magicians or merfolk. Or other older, darker beings.
The brindle had been living alone with the Adam-children for six months when the fox hunters came. The Odin-daughter had passed on five seasons before and the Odin-son, lasting far longer than Cu Fail prophesied, three full seasons after that. He had warned the brindle of the Wild Hunt’s coming, but she had seen no sign of a dog matching the Odin-son’s description of Cu Fail nor a change in the Adam-children’s fortunes. Being a dog who prided herself on living in the present, she went about her daily routine of snoozing and eating, taking nice walks and chasing small animals, and thought no more about the Hunt.
That changed the day the Adam-daughter found the fox hunters outside the door. Though the brindle was more proficient at the various communication media of the Adam children, her command of sign was passable enough that she recognized the newcomers desired to speak with her urgently. So after the Adam-son – whom she often thought of as the Headmaster – finished tying them to the hot tub lid’s lift bar she barked until he let her outside.
Alert! they cried aloud as she jumped down the steps. Danger! Warning! Alert!