Different, Not Damaged
by Andy Peloquin
Genre: Dark Fantasy Short Stories
Strength from Weakness
Disability becomes Power
Some call them disabilities, but for others they are gifts:
– A voiceless child painting visions of death.
– A killer with a deadly message plagued by a burden of guilt.
– A priestess divinely empowered to absorb others’ pain.
– A soldier fighting for courage in the face of fear.
– A broken warrior-priest on a mission of vengeance.
– A thief desperate to escape the burden of his memories.
Betrayed by mind or body, these people struggle to survive in a grim world that takes no pity on the weak. Yet they will discover that they are simply different, not damaged.
This collection of dark fantasy short stories will keep you turning the page as you experience life through the eyes of the differently-abled.
Pick up this uniquely heart-wrenching book today because you want to feel what it means to live with a disability.
What Readers Are Saying:
This collection of stories keeps you engrossed right through to the end. – S.S.
These stories about people trying to overcome, or at least come to terms with, the hardships of their lives. Worth the read! – T.E.
This is one of those books that leaves you wanting more. – S.S
The remnants of last night’s snowfall squelched under Dahvynd’s heavy boots. The rising sun had driven back the chill and turned the lanes of the Merchant’s Quarter into a mess of puddles, rivulets, and muddy tracks.
Seraphina stood outside his shop, a bundle clasped in her arms. “There you are! And here’s me worrying you’d overslept.”
Dahvynd forced a smile. He hadn’t overslept, or slept a whole night through, in more than a decade.
The seamstress thrust the bundle toward him. “All nicely ripped, just like you asked.”
“Thank you.” He fumbled in his pocket for the key. “I’ll send Karrl ’round soon as he shows.”
Seraphina waved him away. “You’re good for it, I know.” With a smile, she picked her way back up the muddy street toward her haberdashery.
Dahvynd watched her go, couldn’t help himself. Seraphina’s beauty entranced him. Not like his Killia, but…
He brushed the thought aside. No sense in that kind of thinking. She bore burden enough caring for her own three children.
For a moment, Dahvynd stood on the stoop, content to bask in the sunlight and feel the warmth on his face. Wagons rumbled up the muddy streets, splashing bundled pedestrians. Daylight made even the mud-spattered shops of the Merchant’s Quarter seem brighter.
Taking one last breath of the bracing air, Dahvynd unlocked the door and stepped inside the stuffy tailor’s shop. After starting the fire, he shed hat, scarf, and cloak, then fumbled at the bright ribbon Seraphina liked to use to hold her bundles tight. One by one, he held up the items and studied them with a critical eye.
Seraphina did good work with the seams. She ripped neatly, never so much as slicing a delicate thread of lace. She was certainly far more delicate than the Legion’s surgeons.
The skills that had saved Dahvynd’s life—and those of countless comrades—provided him a way to earn a living after his discharge. Similar stitches, mostly, though lace and linen were more delicate than flesh. Less messy, too, and easier to do with one hand.
He’d spent the better part of two years training the fingers of his left hand to grip the needle. His mangled right hand lacked dexterity. At least it served to hold the material in place. And Seraphina could rip the seams when he made a mistake. It was easier to start afresh the next day than try to handle the tiny dagger himself. The quiver that ran through his hand had destroyed far too many costly fabrics.
He turned over the last jacket in the bundle. A fragment of black thread hung from the stitch Seraphina had missed. He froze, hands trembling. The ghost of screams tugged at the corners of his mind. Soft leather shifted in his grip, turning into crimson-stained flesh. Black cord snaked through layers of skin as he fought to close Corporal Garvey’s leg. Dark arterial blood pumped from the wound, but he would not yield. He had to stop the bleeding before—
Chest heaving, Dahvynd hurled the jacket away and rushed to his chair. The needle dipped and darted into Mistress Alahnah’s dress as he forced himself to take deep, calming breaths. His world narrowed to the soft gown, the delicate white strands, and the shining length of metal in his hand. Every shred of willpower went into keeping his mind focused on the work, his eyes fixed on that needle.
The thread came alive in his hands, and Dahvynd watched the patterns take shape. He didn’t control them; they seemed to guide him, pulling him into the complex web of string and fabric until the memories—indeed, the world around him—faded into nothing. He could live like this: disconnected from everything save for needle and thread.
A silvery tinkling snapped him from his trance. Dahvynd blinked at the two men entering the shop, taking note of their thick arms and sloping foreheads.
“Gentlemen.” He nodded. “I’m not takin’ new requests right now, but—”
One—a hulking fellow who reminded Dahvynd of the white mountain apes common beyond the Frozen Sea—slammed a hairy hand down on the counter. “You know why we’re here, tailor.”
Dahvynd’s eyes dropped to the brand tattooed on the man’s forearm. Crimson dripped from a hand, the five too-long fingers tipped with razor claws.
He spoke in a measured voice. “I’ve no interest in the Bloody Hand’s business. And we’ll have no problem, s’long as you steer clear of mine.”
The second man—bull-necked, and with a face like crushed gravel—growled. “Ye are the Bloody Hand’s business.” He looked around the cluttered shop. “All this cloth…shame if it somehow caught fire or got stolen. Thankfully, we’re here to make sure nothing happens to yer precious property.”
The mountain ape leered. “And alls it’ll cost you is one imperial a month. In gra-tee-tude for our services, as it were.”
Dahvynd set aside the dress and stood. Bull-neck and ape-man’s eyes widened a fraction as he rose to his full height. He could see them measuring his arms—of a size with their own, and strengthened from years of swinging shield and sword rather than the wooden clubs that hung from their belts. No Legionnaire had ever accused Dahvynd of being compact.
Once, Dahvynd would have vaulted the counter and let his fists do the talking. Even before years of hard training in the Legion, he’d walked away victorious from more than his share of fights. That was before Killia. Before he’d nearly caved in a man’s skull in a blind rage.
Another side effect of the damned battles. The tremor in his hands was the first indication of another episode. If he let the memories take him, he’d have little control over his actions. His left hand had begun to tremble like a leaf in a hurricane.
The wooden counter creaked in his grip, and the two thugs’ eyes narrowed. Dahvynd made no move to attack. His left hand sought the thin band of metal around his right wrist.
Strength and Courage. He took a deep breath.
“Best you turn right around.” He jerked his chin toward the door. “As it stands, you and me got no quarrel.”
Bull-neck sneered. “And if ye want to keep it that way, ye’ll pay what—”
Dahvynd took a step toward the counter, looming over the men. “Leave now, and I’ll forget I saw your faces.”
Man-ape flinched and took a step back, but recovered a moment later. “Don’t be foolish.”
Dahvynd rested his left hand atop the handle of the wooden baton Killia had insisted he keep behind the counter.
Bull-neck’s hand went to his own club. Man-ape stopped him. “You’re making a mistake, tailor.” He nudged his companion toward the door. “We won’t be as friendly next time.” The bell gave an angry jangle as they left.
Gasping, Dahvynd wrenched his hand from the club. His left hand trembled so violently it set his shoulder quaking. He hadn’t touched a weapon since…
His fingers fumbled for the silver band as he dropped into his chair. He pulled his knees to his chest, closed his eyes, and forced himself to take deep breaths. Ragged threads of memory—water soaking his boots, the reek of blood, the ululating battle calls rising from a thousand barbarian throats—rushed into his consciousness. He ran his thumb over the smooth metal, letting the familiar feel soothe him and drive back sights, sounds, and sensations he ached to forget.
Strength and Courage, Dahvynd, he repeated, as Killia had so many times. Strength and Courage.
I am, first and foremost, a storyteller and an artist–words are my palette. Fantasy is my genre of choice, and I love to explore the darker side of human nature through the filter of fantasy heroes, villains, and everything in between. I’m also a freelance writer, a book lover, and a guy who just loves to meet new people and spend hours talking about my fascination for the worlds I encounter in the pages of fantasy novels.
Fantasy provides us with an escape, a way to forget about our mundane problems and step into worlds where anything is possible. It transcends age, gender, religion,race, or lifestyle–it is our way of believing what cannot be, delving into the unknowable, and discovering hidden truths about ourselves and our world in a brand new way. Fiction at its very best!