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First pages

Part I – A Breach of the Contract

Chapter 1

Thula heard fierce arguing in the common square of the village as she prepared for the day. The muffled voices were hard to make out, but the anger was clear. With a quick check in the mirror to make sure she was presentable, she ran outside to see why everyone sounded so upset. Not that she cared about her appearance—she wasn’t one of “those” fairies—but she did want to look decent.

Many of the older members of the community stood outside the governor’s home, yelling in gruff voices for a move to action. Her bright green eyes surveyed the scene, and her muscles tensed under her dark brown skin.

She listened to the loud commotion with tall pointy ears as disbelief filled her face.

“You’re going to stand back and let this happen?” asked one.

“You’re a coward!” said another.

“This is an invasion of our territory. We must act!”

The Haloti have always been a peaceful people, she thought. Why is everyone so angry? What is going on?

A strong breeze ruffled her light brown hair, revealing the faint traces of the tattoos climbing up her neck. She was eager for them to make their full appearance, but figured it would be at least another year before it would happen. The anger in the crowd continued to grow. Her small translucent wings on her back fluttered with unease as she watched Governor Linotas step forward to address the crowd.

The governor’s flowing, green honorary robes of silk rippled in the wind, and Thula was interested to see what he had to say. His old and weathered face matched his wise, brown eyes. Judging by his gray hair held back in a ponytail, and mustachios hanging down on both sides of his mouth, one could sense his age. She thought his gray hair was in sharp contrast to his dark and leathery skin.

Thula continued along the gray branch as she searched for a friendly face. The rough textures felt good underneath her feet; it was sturdy and familiar. The sounds of the various birds chirping about and the constant tag the squirrels played back and forth brought her comfort.

Amridon, her best friend, stood behind several others and she joined his side. “What’s going on?”

He offered a warm smile at her appearance and his eyes lit up like a candle. “Thula, about time you joined us.” He looked at the bright sky, staring at the sun. “Slept a little late, didn’t you?”

“I was tired and had nothing important going on this morning.” A small grimace crossed her face when she looked to the sky for herself, shocked to see how close the sun was to its pinnacle. It was almost lunchtime. “It isn’t any of your business what I do anyway.”

Amridon turned his attention back to the governor. “Can you believe this has happened? I mean we’ve heard about them since we were children, but I never expected anything like this.”

She matched his gaze and looked at the assembled villagers. “Believe what? I don’t understand what’s happening.”

“Oh, you did oversleep, didn’t you?” he asked. “I was only kidding before, but a scout identified a Grimmox last night in our part of the tree. Up here, Thula.” he said, visibly mortified by just the thought. “They know better than to venture outside their territory. It’s part of the treaty. They stay on the bottom of the tree, and we stay on the top.”

The anger in his voice wasn’t lost on her, but she had no idea how to respond. I can’t believe it. Why would they risk generations of peace? Growing up as a Haloti, she had heard all the stories, but there had to be a logical explanation. The Grimmox couldn’t be as bad as their histories painted them to be, could they? How can we be afraid of something we don’t understand? She stiffened, shocked by the dire news, and if truth be told, she didn’t care for the way Amridon had already convicted the entire Grimmox population

”Are you sure? Who spotted it?” she asked.

“It was a younger soldier on patrol. He spotted it spying on our village.”

“How can we be sure? We haven’t seen a Grimmox in several generations. How would the soldier even know what one looked like?”

Why does everyone always assume the worst? She wondered. It’s not as though the Grimmox attacked us or anything.

“Why does it matter? Shouldn’t you be more upset about this? You should want vengeance just as much as I do. If this soldier claims to have seen one, then I don’t doubt him,” he said. “Besides, you can’t tell me you wouldn’t love an opportunity to put an arrow into the chest of one of those beasts? Just imagine if we took the fight to them, then there would be no more offering. We could live a life free from that curse; we wouldn’t have to fear for our children.” His voice and eyes implored her.

“We both know how bad the offering is. I detest it as much as you do, but it’s part of our culture. Even if we lose one of our own every year, it’s not worth starting a war. I understand the risks of the offering as much as anyone else.” She sighed.

“Thula, I have one more year, but you still have two. I don’t think I can live with myself if you are selected,” he said as he shifted his gaze to the ground and kicked at it with his feet.

“I’m afraid of the offering too,” she said as she stepped closer and placed a hand on his chest. “But it’s not something I will waste my time worrying about.”

”No, I won’t accept that. I don’t want to worry about it. We need to put a stop to it right now before we risk any more souls to an antiquated ritual. I’d stand with my brethren to protect what is ours. Can’t you see how important this is?”

Thula furrowed her brow in frustration. Yes, she could see that it was very important to him, but she didn’t want to accept his words. She wouldn’t accept his words. Why does he have to be so hard headed?

“Are you that eager to start a war? I’ve always respected your level head and ability to stay calm in tight situations. I hope you can see the costs are more than the possible benefits.” she said.

How can he be so foolish? She wondered.

Amridon scoffed. “Come now. I don’t want to start a war, but if given the opportunity I will do my part to protect all we hold dear.” He walked up and put his arm around her. He had a look in his eyes showing his arrogance.

She almost flinched at his touch. Something seemed different about him, and she didn’t like the aggressive nature he had adopted; his words seemed empty and hollow. Then again, perhaps she was being ridiculous. Emotions were running high right now. Amridon’s would be no different. She calmed down, welcoming his embrace. “Do you really think this will lead to a war?” she asked.

“I doubt it. I’m sure we are just bothered by what this will mean. I’m confident it will all work out just fine.” It sounded as if he were placating her, while at the same time hoping for a chance at proving his prowess.

Rather than continuing their argument, she refocused her attention on the governor as he continued speaking.

“Look, I understand your frustration and I’m just as startled by this revelation, but we need to be careful and gather the evidence before go any further.” The governor took a deep breath before continuing. “I will not risk a war with the Grimmox over rumors. We have stuck by our end of the treaty by continuing with the absurd tradition of the offering. The Grimmox have honored their end by leaving us alone and letting us live our lives as we see fit. I have a hard time accepting they would risk centuries of peace by spying on us, and to what end?” His lips spread in a smile and to Thula he looked confident in his words.

More grumblings rose from the crowd of Haloti citizens. Thula spotted her parents standing on the outskirts of the gathering. An older Haloti voiced his displeasure with the governor. “They have already broken the treaty by venturing so far north. Shouldn’t there be retaliation on our part?” he said, while others around urged him to continue. “I won’t risk the life of my child for the offering to a species who cannot be trusted.” Others seconded his opinions and offered their own thoughts.

The governor waved his hands downward urging his citizens to remain calm. “I can see your displeasure, and will speak with the council before I issue our next actions. Until then, we’re getting nowhere. Take time and talk to your families. Let cooler heads prevail, and I’m sure we’ll have a message for you later today.”

To Thula, this wasn’t what the crowd wanted to hear it seemed, and the governor drew the ire of many. Deep down she wanted him to say more, anything that would help explain his thoughts, but instead he retreated into his own quarters, amidst anger and boos from the crowd.

She caught her parent’s attention from the opposite side of the branch and beckoned them to join her.

They both gave somewhat tremulous smiles as they walked over to meet them. Her father spoke first. “Amridon, Thula, what a pleasure to see both of you this morning. Quite the speech, I don’t know what to make of it.” He pointed at the governor’s home behind him and adopted a rigid posture, clearly upset by the words of the governor.

Thula registered the beautiful contrast in her parent’s physical attributes. . Her father had loose, dark hair framing his old and aged face. The many years of hard work showed in his muscular build and the various scars accrued with pride were on abundant display at all times. She would always hide a tender smirk, though, while thinking of this bear of a fairy spreading his warmth during scary storms that rocked their beloved tree, or his devoted attendance at little fairy’s tea parties.

Just the same, Cellomes, she noted, was his exact opposite in both appearance and demeanor. With smooth skin, bright blue eyes, and flowing brown hair, they looked the odd pair. Especially considering that his height was above average, and she stood a full head shorter. However, to all that knew them they seemed to fit perfectly, balancing one another with effortless grace. Thula thought Gorvin’s disposition tended toward the passionate and boisterous, while her mother was always calmer and more inclined to use reason and sensibility.

Thula brought herself back to the moment as Amridon said, “I was just arguing with your daughter who seems to have a different idea.” She started to speak, but he interrupted her. “I guess I should know better by now,” he said as he laughed.

Even though it shouldn’t matter, she thought, his words hurt Thula and she looked away before she risked another argument.

“She has always been that way, so I understand what you mean,” Gorven said while he grinned. He looked around the crowd before speaking again. “If you don’t mind, Thula, your mother and I have matters to attend to, but I want to have a longer conversation with you about the Grimmox. You’re too important to risk to another offering. Maybe it’s time we did something about it.”

Thula nodded her head. “But I won’t start a war over the issue. I have always loved you for your compassion so hopefully it won’t come to that. I would love to hear your ideas, because I don’t know how I should react.”

“But something has to be done, and if the governor won’t do anything, maybe we will.”

Thula tried to continue the conversation, but her father waved her off before continuing. “We’ll discuss this later.” He looked around at the assembled villagers. “This isn’t the time, nor is it the place.” Without uttering another word, her parents turned and walked back to their home. Her mother offered one last glance and shrugged, indicating she didn’t know what Gorven had in mind either.

Thula understood what her father was saying without speaking a word. She turned and spoke to Amridon. “I want to clear my head. It was great seeing you this morning,” she said as her parents disappeared from sight and she started walking away.

“I can go with you,” Amridon said.

“As much as I would enjoy time with you, I would like to be alone to gather my thoughts. This whole Grimmox situation has my stomach in knots.”

Amridon frowned. “Very well, happy hunting,” he said.

She turned and walked away as frustration coursed through her veins. How does he know I’m going hunting? She wondered. Then again, what else would she do? She was sometimes too predictable.

After grabbing her bow and donning a simple tunic made of silk, she set out on her hunt. The afternoon air was warm and thick, with the slightest hint of moisture. It had been dry the past several days, and she welcomed a little rain. The leaves of the tree were a bright green and yellow and she brushed her hands over the rough edges as she walked. They were sharp and would cut into her skin, but something in their touch helped to cleanse her soul. She was relaxed and refreshed for the first time today. Several birds chirped on the branches above her head. Letting out a series of whistles, she tried to mimic their call, but she had never been good with the songs of the birds, and all she did was startle them. They took off into the sky and she seemed all alone.

As the day neared afternoon, she moved with stealth down a branch seeking cover behind several leaves as she moved closer to her prey. The rough bark under her feet offered her comfort and more than a little traction. A soft breeze brushed past her face and brought with it the scents of nature. She had spotted a black caterpillar earlier with a red band of color through its midsection. Per Haloti laws, caterpillars were not to be touched. Many would one day turn into butterflies, but they also produced silk. This one though, would turn into a moth, meaning she was free to pursue it.

The morning’s worrisome scene still bothered her and she tried her best to put the thoughts out of her mind. Crouched behind a leaf, she tried to control her excitement. Adrenaline coursed through her body and her heart rate ran high—her pulse pounded in her chest. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes to steady herself. Her father’s lessons ran through her head and she listened to him issuing orders in his gruff voice. Take a deep breath, pull back on the bow, steady your heartbeat. The words brought a chuckle to her throat. She opened her eyes and peered around a jagged edge of the leaf. The caterpillar had stopped about one-hundred paces down the bough as it encountered a rough knot jutting up in its path.

Her heartbeat quickened when she saw a bird several branches higher in the tree. It had its eye on the caterpillar too, and timing was of the essence. If she waited too long, she would lose her opportunity. Too quickly, and she would miss the target. She had to do it right the first time.

With an arrow knocked to her bow, she pulled back on the string. With one last deep breath, she calmed herself before letting it loose. It flew straight and whistled through the air as it turned into a blur and found its target. She fired several more at the creature in rapid succession to make sure it didn’t suffer. The muscles contracted and the front end climbed into the air. Yellow fluid leaked from its many wounds before it crashed back down on the hard gray surface of the branch. Running to the creature’s side and checking to make sure it was dead, she pumped her fist toward the bird who seemed no longer interested as it flew away.

With her back to the creature, she sat down to let her nerves settle. She looked over her shoulder and admired her kill. The caterpillar was larger than she had expected. The amount of meat she harvested would feed the entire village for days and she couldn’t wait to bring it home. A loud crack thundered on the branch behind her, and she whipped her head around to see who approached.

“I should have known you would follow me,” she said with the slightest hint of irritation in her voice. “I said I wanted to be alone.”

The nerve of him to follow me, she thought.

“I wanted to make sure you were all right,” he said. He walked to her and whistled as he neared the caterpillar. “Good grief, did you have to kill the largest behemoth you found? How many arrows did it take before it fell?” The yellow life fluid continued to leak out over the branch and he walked with light feet so he didn’t slip on the wet surface.

“It took several,” she said while beaming, “but now you’re here and you can help me collect the meat.”

His laughter filled the air as he pulled out his stone tools. “I would say good job, but I can see you’re already proud enough.” She playfully punched his arm. He massaged it to take out the sting as he grinned. “Well, I guess we should get to work.”

With the friendly banter aside, they cut into the flesh. They tried to get large enough swaths of the fur because it was useful material for winter coats. It took several trips to carry it all to the village where a portion of the meat would be salted and the rest would be smoked. It took the better part of the afternoon, but before long, they salvaged the valuable pieces of the creature. As she expected, the villagers welcomed the meat and they put together a small feast to honor the occasion.

Her eyes wandered over dinner and she looked at Amridon several times, pleased the festive mood in the village overshadowed the potential Grimmox siting. It was as though her eyes had a mind of their own and her stomach fluttered each time they rested on him. They had always been friends, but it never occurred to her there might be more. It seemed as though something was changing between them. After dinner, he had asked her to take a stroll, but she had declined. She loved being with him, true, but after the long day exhaustion overwhelmed her. After excusing herself, she made her way home hoping her refusal hadn’t bothered him much.

***

Thula had always admired her parents because they were protective of the great tree. They had built their home inside a knot in the trunk that would otherwise have been useless, and thus preserved the symbiotic existence they nurtured over generation. They had two levels with three bedrooms, and gentle holes carved out that served as windows to the outside world.

Trees and fire never got along, so the fairies had to be careful as to not risk a disaster. Most used warming pans in their bed to keep a comfortable temperature while they slept. The breeze coming through the window told Thula tonight would be cold. She grabbed her warming pan and walked back down to the main level, where she went to the clay stove and looked inside to find several coals still smoldering. Using a small shovel, she scooped a few into the pan, and returned to her bed. Although, she felt fearful she wouldn’t sleep. Her body still quaked from the news of the Grimmox sighing and her mind kept wandering toward the problem. It wasn’t like her people to thirst for war like this and she didn’t like it. Her eyes stared at the roof of her room and thought she would never find sleep, but the hard work cleaning the caterpillar earlier in the day had drained her energy and she drifted off into the land of slumber.

Chapter 2

The following day, Thula couldn’t seem to get Amridon out of her mind. That evening as she was out for a stroll she ran into him. She invited him to join her and they ventured to the high-reaching branches. They walked side-by-side with her heart rate increasing as she stole a peek at his face in the silver light. In the soft darkness, she noticed his strong jaw, leading to the hard edges of his face and she realized how handsome he was. Over the past several days, she had sensed her feelings toward him changing as they matured, and hoped his were too, but neither had any idea how to approach this, choosing instead to avoid it altogether.

After the long walk, Thula sat on the edge of a bough with a clear view of the star-filled sky. The moon was full and loomed large. A slight breeze blew from the south and rocked the branch. She invited Amridon to join her.

A smile crossed her face as she looked up into his large brown eyes and tried to muster the courage to speak her feelings for once. “Thanks for your help yesterday. I never thought it would take so long.”

Not ideal, she thought, but at least it’s a start. Why can’t he tell me his feelings? She wondered.

“It was my pleasure,” he said as he returned her smile.

She shivered and welcomed his arms as he wrapped them around her. The heat felt good and her shivers diminished.

“Thula, there is something I must confess.”

His eyes spoke to the seriousness of his tone and her body tensed in anticipation. Could this be it? She rested her arm on his shoulder as he continued.

“We’ve grown up together, and at times we treat one another like siblings, but for a while now my feelings have been different. I find you’re in my mind more often, and when I’m not with you, I want nothing more than to be with you. There is something about you that draws me. I don’t know what it means, and I don’t know if you feel the same way, but I needed to get it out there. I hope to know how your thoughts too.” His gaze slid down to his lap as he finished.

Goosebumps filled her flesh as excitement flooded her body. “Oh Amridon, I’ve been meaning to tell you I’ve had similar feelings.” She turned and smiled, looking deep into his eyes. “No matter how hard I’ve tried to shrug them off, my mind always returns to you. I’m falling in love with you.”

The words left her mouth and she couldn’t believe how calm she sounded, at least in her own head. Inside, her body was a wreck. This was the day she had waited for and now that it was here, she didn’t know how to continue.

Her mouth was still open as she intended to say more, but he cut her off and planted his lips on hers. His breath was fresh and warm, and his tongue was soft and delicate. He brought his hand up to her neck, grazing it before pulling her in closer.

Breathing softly on her neck he whispered into her ear. “I love you too.”

She eyed his soft lips with greed, voraciously yearning for more. He lay her down and kissed the nape of her neck before working down her body. His soft lips caused the tiny hairs on her skin to perk up like tiny needles. With each new kiss, her heart beat faster, wondering where his lips would explore next. She lost all conscious thought, and it appeared he had too. Her fingers curled and her nails dug into the rough bark of the tree. Fresh blood trickled into her mouth when she bit her lower lip in delight as he nibbled on her ear lobe and his hot breath tickled her neck. The feeling began overwhelming her, and she wanted him to go further. This was what she had always wanted and couldn’t believe it was happening. Nothing had ever felt better, she was close to losing herself and she wanted it to last forever.

She cracked open her eyes and looked up at the star-laden sky when she thought, Wait, what are we doing? Her mind worked to clear the haze of love.

While pushing him off, she said, “Stop, we can’t do this.” She hated the words as they escaped her mouth. As much as she wanted to move forward, it wouldn’t be right. “We need to receive approval from our parents before we go any further.”

He sighed and sat back. “Yes, but it doesn’t make it any easier though.” He stole a quick kiss before standing. “It seems right with you.”

“Trust me, the last thing I wanted was to stop.” She stood herself, now that her desires had come under rein, and her brain once again worked like normal. “It’s getting late. Walk me back to my house, will you?”

He grabbed her arms and pulled her close. They walked side-by-side back to the tree trunk and descended until they reached her home. Not wanting to leave her this way, he leaned in closer, kissed her and whispered, “Good night.”

Her lashes fluttered as her eyes rolled back into her head. It was never easy to stop, and she could succumb to the burning within her stomach if she wasn’t careful, so she pushed him away again. “Good night, Amridon. I look forward to seeing you in the morning.” She blushed and walked inside her home, leaving him standing alone.

***

The following morning, Amridon showed up at Thula’s doorstep. Her mother invited him in, and Thula rushed to his side. “What are you doing here?” she asked.

“I couldn’t sleep last night,” he whispered. “I can only think of you, and after our conversation, I needed to come here first thing in the morning to discuss our possible courtship with your parents.”

She wanted to yell at him for rushing out like a love struck fool, but something inside her burned and she led him into her home.

Gorven’s eyes grew wide. “Amridon! To what do we owe the pleasure of such an early visit?” he asked.

“If you have a moment, I would like to speak with you and Cellomes on something important.” He looked at Thula and beamed. She had never wanted anything more

Gorven looked at Cellomes and shrugged. “We can spare a few minutes. I must attend a meeting this afternoon, but not until after lunch.” Gorven shifted in his seat as he leaned forward on the table. “So what important issue do you need to speak with us about?”

Amridon cleared his throat and looked at Thula, searching her dark green eyes, before finding the courage to speak. “You have both known me all of my life. You are engaged in several business dealings with my family, and there has always been closeness.” Thula nodded her head, urging him to continue. “Your daughter and I have grown up together and I consider her to be one of my best, if not the best friend I have. As of late, our feelings have grown larger than that, and after several conversations, we realized we have each fallen for one another.”

Gorven’s eyes grew large, and he shifted in his chair as he listened. Through his alarmed eyes, he urged Amridon to continue. Thula held her breath, praying her mother’s sense of harmony would calm her father’s rashness.

“We both recognize how young we are and we seek your blessing before we take our courtship any further. I want you to realize, I will do everything in my power to protect her. There is nothing, and no one else I care more for than your daughter. I find I’m quite smitten, and hope one day to be sealed with her, with your blessing, that is.” Thula watched Amridon’s eyes as he shifted his gaze back to her.

The words he uttered and the courtesy he offered was perfect. Thula couldn’t have said it any better herself. If nothing else, he had won over her mother, but she expected more resistance from her father. There was a curse that came with being the youngest daughter, the baby, and he would want to hold on as long as possible. With eagerness, she shifted her attention to her father to listen to what he had to say in response.

Gorven looked at his wife with questioning eyes, unable to respond. Cellomes bought him time and voiced her opinion. “Amridon, I knew when you were both still toddler fairies, that one day this would come. I must say, you are quite the young man, and have a very promising future in front of you. I couldn’t be any happier for you two.”

Thula could tell her father hadn’t expected his wife’s response because he slumped back in his chair and shook his head. Thula rose and embraced her mother in a warm hug, pleased that her prayer had worked so far.

“Are the two of you mad?” her father said through strained lips. Thula knew he was struggling with the news, but hadn’t expected such harsh words. “You’re both too young. I will not allow my daughter to be promised in a courtship before either of you are free from the offering.” He stood and pointed at Amridon. “If I’m correct, you’re still eligible for one more,” he spun on his heels and pointed at his daughter. “And you! I raised you better than this. You won’t be free of this burden for two more years. What happens if you find yourself with child when you face this… this… annual tradition?” he asked. “What would happen to the child? For that matter, what would happen to you?” He paced behind his chair shaking his head as he continued his outbursts. “You’re too young and I’ll have no more of this conversation.”

Thula ran forward pleading. “Father! It’s not as though we’re asking to be sealed now. That would come later when we are of age.” A tear ran down her cheek from the corner of her left eye. “We both want to be together and realized this has been coming since we were children. We’re seeking your permission to start a relationship now. I love him, father, and don’t wish to give my heart to any other but him. Please, at least think about it!” Thula rested her hand on her father’s arm.

Listen to reason, she thought. You were young when you met my mother why should I be any different. You have to allow this. You want me to be happy, so stop standing in the way. A million thoughts shot through her head, but somehow she couldn’t vocalize any of them and stood like a little child afraid to speak the truth.

Gorven’s face grew red with anger at his daughter’s words. “This just proves how immature you are. Look at yourself!” he said with disgust filling his voice. “You’re pleading and begging like a little child who doesn’t get their way. Any person ready to pursue an adult relationship would handle this in a much better manner, and would be respectful of their father’s wishes and opinions on the matter. My answer remains no,” he spoke with an air of finality. Amridon’s mouth dropped open. He looked defeated.

Cellomes walked closer and grabbed her husband’s arm, caressing his hand in her own. “Be reasonable, Gorven. They aren’t any younger than we were when we found each other. And we did it behind our parents’ backs.” Her translucent wings fluttered, a sure sign of her increasing frustration. “The way they are acting is much more mature than we ourselves acted. They sought our blessing before making an impulsive decision. Your mind is still clouded from the governor’s speech.”

He turned and faced his wife. “I don’t think it’s wise. She is so young, and I am fearful of the offering. Look at her.” He pointed to Thula. “I know many thoughts are filling her head, yet she stands there as quiet as a mouse.”

“We decided long ago the odds of that happening were small. We only want her to be happy. If being with Amridon will give her that happiness. How can we deny it? We can’t, just as we can’t waste time worrying about the offering. If it happens, it happens, and is as Halothias, our God, has deemed his will.”

She looked into his eyes. “How can we take away what may be her only chance at true love? What if she is selected? Would you be happy knowing our daughter is taken from us, never knowing the same love you and I both share?”

Her words seemed to work. A tear trickled down his face as he stared at his daughter. “I don’t think the decision would be right. She is just a baby.” This last just a strained whisper.

Cellomes pulled Gorven in closer. “Your baby has grown up.” She chuckled. “It is time for you to face it and let go. Besides, is the decision not both of ours?”

He grinned. “The decision is ours.” He let her go. “And I suppose you won’t budge on your thoughts? You bless their relationship?” He waited as Cellomes nodded her head. “Then I guess you leave me little choice.”

Amridon and Thula drew closer awaiting his verdict.

Gorven sighed. “I still think you are both far too young, but if it’s your wish to develop a relationship who are we to stand in your way?” He threw his hands up into the air. “We bless your courtship.”

Thula planted a soft kiss on Amridon’s lips, before running to her parents. “Thank you, father.” She hugged him before embracing her mother. She whispered into her ear. “And thank you, mother. I fear without your words of encouragement, we never would have received his blessing.” Her voice wavered with jubilation.

Cellomes leaned in closer. “Sometimes he needs a reminder and a little encouragement to arrive at the correct decision. It is a skill you will learn and hone over the duration of your long relationship.” She kissed Thula’s forehead.

Thula grinned and thanked her parents again before grabbing her love’s hand. They ran out of the house and into the warm spring air.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

J.G. Gatewood lives in Parker, CO with his wife of fourteen years, Sarah, and two sons, Branden and Evan. When not writing, he works as a Subject Matter Expert. He enjoys football and reading in his free time

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
We have a Sugar Maple tree in our backyard, and over the thirteen years we have lived here, my wife has always opined as to what tiny creatures could live on the tree. I created this story as something for her, but fell in love with it and wanted to share it with the world.
Q. What books are you reading now?
A.
End of Watch (Bill Hodges Trilogy Book 3) by Stephen King.
Q. Which writers inspire you?
A.
There are many. Stephen King, George R.R. Martin, Dean Koontz, Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, J.R.R. Tolkien, John Grisham, just to name a few

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