Darkness and Light is one of the short stories to be included in An Anthology of Gods and Older Magic. It is currently only available as a stand-alone short story.
Abselia has traveled a long way to reach the trading town. Shadows move at her arrival, and light shimmers in dismay. Can light’s champion find the stronghold of shadows, and solve the puzzle of its strength, or is she doomed to failure like all who have gone before?
The day had been hot and the road dustier than usual. Abselia looked at where the town rose to make a dark silhouette against the afternoon sun. It was larger than she’d expected, and she felt a twinge of unease. The duty lying before her would be harder for having a large town overhead.
One of the guards rode his horse alongside the cart on which she'd purchased passage, and smiled down at her. "You sure this is the place?" he asked.
"This is it." Abselia left it at that. She'd been deflecting approaches from the guards all journey. She sighed, pretending to study the wooden palisade surrounding the town.
The guard allowed his horse to drop back.
The day had been too long, Abselia decided as they passed through the gates, with no more than a cursory check from the men stationed there.
And the journey, she thought, as she caught the overseer's eye and signaled she was leaving, near longer than I can stand.
She dropped from the back of the cart, making sure she dragged her knapsack after herself. Having reached the journey's end, unscathed and unattached, Abselia was glad to see the front of an inn and the back of her companions.
Abselia didn't stop to watch the caravan as it wound its way towards the town’s merchant's quarter. If she had, she might have seen the flickering of shadows that blurred the buildings' shade and the answering shimmer that shook the heat haze in the caravan's wake. As it was, she saw neither. Her attention was wholly taken by the coolness of the inn's interior and the promise of a cold drink, a decent meal and a soft bed.
She was even hoping for a private bath. The road's dust had formed a fine film over her skin and it would be good to feel the air moving freely against her face again. She walked purposefully through the main entrance. The heat outside the inn's door shimmered in frustration, and a flicker of shadow laughed in reply, as Abselia walked across to the counter at the bar.
The sound of her boots on the wooden flooring made the innkeeper look up. It was late afternoon. Travelers would be arriving with the caravans ending the day’s journey in town. He should at least welcome the first.
The shadows fluttered around him, running tendrils through his hair, and breathing soft words into his ear. He nodded at their reminder. He would not forget. They were due their tribute just as he was due his life.
He watched the woman approaching the counter and felt a twinge of regret. She was tall and trim, her figure as lithe as a cat's and her skin tanned honey brown. She was the first to arrive, and the shadows had made their choice in spite of who might come after. He hurried to greet her.
"Afternoon, lady," he called.
END FIRST PAGE
If you would like to read more, Darkness and Light can be found as a stand-alone title at Smashwords, but will shortly become available at Kobo, Kindle, and iTunes.