Contest Entry – The Tale of Puppy

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Character Name: Puppy

The Tale Of Puppy


My name’s Anna, but I’ve been called Puppy since childhood. What a nickname to be saddled with, huh? My sister’s called Honeybee, which isn’t much better.

There’s not much to tell about my childhood. I was born in Moonglow, a small town in those days, and until I was fifteen I lived there with my parents and my younger sister. Then the sickness swept through Moonglow, infecting nearly everyone who stepped outside. People left town or died. It was winter, but we didn’t have a fire in the hearth because it was thought woodsmoke made the noxious air worse; I remember packing a bag for myself and my sister with hands that were clammy from cold and fright. My mother soaked cloth in water and we tied the cloths around our faces to try and filter the outside air when we left our comfortable house for the last time.

We hurried through deserted streets out of town to the moongate. In those days moongates were chancy things, not like today. It’s amazing what they can do with magic nowadays. Our family linked hands and went through together, my father first, then my mother, then me, and I held tight onto my little sister’s hand. She was only seven. But something happened on the way through the moongate. I felt my mother’s hand jerked out of mine as we entered the blue-white glow of the gate; a flicker, and Honeybee and I were standing outside of a moongate far from home–without our parents.

I searched for them for years. I never found them, never discovered what might have happened. But the moongates were unstable then, and our parents might have ended up somewhere dangerous–set upon by monsters or wild beasts or bandits.

So I was left to raise Honeybee myself. I was good with a sword and a needle both, so I knew I could make enough money to keep us alive. I found us lodgings in Yew–back then Yew was a thriving village, before the sickly enchanted swamp swallowed it–and paid an old lady a few gold coins to keep an eye on Honeybee while I was gone. During the day I hunted monsters, ranging far and wide, ever watchful for our parents as well as danger. In the evenings I took in piecework and sewed until I fell asleep in my chair, too tired to keep my eyes open.

It was exhausting and I worried that Honeybee would grow up uneducated and wild, since I was scarcely ever home. I saved my money, denying myself luxuries–although I admit I spoiled Honeybee a little, bringing her home trinkets and toys from my travels–and slowly, after nearly two years, I had enough money to buy a little house.

The land had recently been opened up to new housing where there was only wilderness before. The proclamation came on a stormy day, when most right-thinking folks would have stayed at home, but I mounted my horse and set off into the rain and wind and thunder, searching for a piece of land to call my own. The land rush was on, though, and I met many others doing the same thing. I knew much of Britannia from my hunting days, but every secluded glade I visited already had a proud new owner staking the corners of a lot to begin building. I searched further afield, until the light began to fade.

I was frustrated, weary, nearly in tears. The land, which only a day before had been nearly empty of houses, now seemed like one big town. I came through the Yew moongate and decided to give up. But before I went home I took one last search through the forest East of the moongate. And there in the trees I found a level piece of ground, just big enough for a tiny one-room house. I slid off my horse and banged in the corner posts to plot the land and claim it as my own.

I hired a builder the next morning, and before I knew it my house was built. Honeybee and I moved in immediately. It was small, but bigger than the rented room we’d been living in. Now I had a place of my own to come back to at the end of the day. And best of all, I no longer had to scrimp and save to buy a house. I could spend the gold I made on making our lives comfortable.

I won’t say we lived like queens, but life settled into a much more pleasant rhythm. No longer did I take in piecework; instead I sold my own tailored wares from my house, and worked on them when I wanted to. I spent less time hunting and more time tutoring my sister, who in my absence had learned little beyond the basics of swordplay and reading. When Honeybee showed interest in learning to cook, I was able to hire a chef to teach her the skill; when she wanted to learn archery, I was able to buy her a fine bow so she could practice.

Those were heady days, and when I look back on them now I’m astonished at how much I long for that time. My sister and I were young, and although I still had to care for Honeybee, that responsibility no longer weighed on me as it had before. I had time to pursue my own interests, to spend time with friends. It was a happy time.

Years passed and Honeybee began to grow up. She was taken in as apprentice to a great chef, and while she was gone I focused on my own training. I fought monsters hideous and terrifying, demons from the netherworld, evil undead, elementals who came screaming in from the air or sea or wrapped in flames. My skill with the sword grew, as did my fame in the land. And then came the heady day that I was called to the castle, where I knelt and was bestowed with the title Glorious Lady, a title I wear proudly to this day.

After that it seemed I could go nowhere but up. The money rolled in, until one spring morning I was able to offer payment for a villa by the sea. By this time Honeybee was living with me again, and the little house in Yew seemed too small for the both of us, particularly when we both had friends over. We moved to the villa, a dream come true for both of us, but I admit to a pang of sadness when I gave the key to my first home to the new owner.

The villa was on the coast north of the Trinsic swamps, an area surprisingly free from wild creatures of any kind. Honeybee spent time fishing from the shore, so close to our house I could see her out the windows. The house was large and airy, the weather warm all year round. Honeybee found a boyfriend, a rascally tamer from Trinsic whom I grudgingly approved of, and I began seeing a craftsman from Minoc, a man I’d met on my travels and who had made much of the furniture in the new villa.

Things seemed blissful. Honeybee brought a friend home to stay with us while her family was going through some difficult times, a mage who despite her sorrows was a sunny girl who laughed often. I hunted a little, sewed a little, kept my vendors stocked, and spent my days in happiness that seemed it would never end.

But nothing good can last. Honeybee’s boat was stolen, and it cost me more than I expected to replace it. That was the first of a long string of financial disasters that took me by surprise, and soon my savings were depleted. In the end I had to sell our villa, and after my debts were paid we had only enough to buy a smaller house on the other side of the swamp, made of the sandstone that Trinsic is famous for. It was a much less comfortable house, and although we made the best of it, Honeybee and I were both broken-hearted at the loss of the villa.

While we were still grieving for the villa, new and terrible creatures began to be seen in the swamp. Vincent, Honeybee’s boyfriend, took up residence with his tame white wyrm to keep us safe. We were lucky in that our new house was away from the worst of the spawn, but hapless travelers sometimes drew the plague beasts near our house. They were too tough for me to fight alone. When I traveled through the swamp I kept to its edges to avoid the monsters. One day I happened to pass our old villa, and I was shocked at its appearance. The monsters had begun to spawn more heavily there, and the villa’s doors were locked and barred. The paint was peeling and the windows shuttered. It was a sad sight, and I tried never to visit it afterwards.

Our living situation was plainly intolerable, but while I was much more careful with finances now, I still didn’t have enough gold to buy a house in a better neighborhood. Finally I sold the sandstone house and we all moved to a friend’s small tower. Once again we were living by the sea, but it was crowded beyond belief, besides being in the middle of nowhere. But I had heard a rumor of new lands.

In the ensuing years the moongates had been made much more stable. Instead of the need to scry the moons before stepping through, one now makes a choice and invariably comes out at the proper place. The mages whose work is the moongates are sometimes able to link new lands to the gates, and one day when I went through to my usual hunting grounds I saw a new choice of land. I went through to a city named Luna, a shining white city of paladins. I’ve never seen such a beautiful place. Nearby I saw a builder and his crew working on a new house inside the city.

I hailed the builder and asked if he knew of any land for sale. He straightened up and flung his arms wide. “It’s all available,” he said. “Pick a spot!”

I rushed around the city, hearing almost nothing but the bang of hammers and scrape of saws as houses went up all over. No matter, there was a great world beyond the city’s borders, sunny and green and virtually empty. I found a broad meadow not far south of Luna and set my stakes in. I engaged a builder’s crew to lay a foundation, but it was an enjoyable few days before Honeybee and I had settled on a house plan we liked.

We live there still, with room for us and all our friends. Honeybee breezes in and out, busy with her own interests of cooking and the honing of her skills with the spear. We house Vincent’s guild, the Drake Defense League, with a stable big enough for his beasts. We have a wine cellar and potting shed, an open-air kitchen, a library–everything a big family needs. I feel half-retired and sometimes half-forgotten, but then I’ll drop by town for something and have the shopkeeps bow to me, reminding me that my services for the crown have not been forgotten.

As of this writing, Britain is overrun with monsters from Despise. Lately I have been throwing in my lot with the other defenders of the realm, and I must say it’s been a heady experience. It reminds me of the old days.

Last modified: March 28, 2011

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