On Dialogue Tags

“Be wary of dialogue tags,” she warned.

“Ha,” he laughed.  “I’ll tag my dialogue as I please!,” he exclaimed.

“Peace,” she groaned.  “Have mercy,” she begged.

“I enjoy your pain,” he gloated.  “Let all tremble before my might,” he boasted…


Okay.  Yeah, I can’t do this anymore.  I’m annoying myself.  See the above?  Yeah.  Don’t do that.  If you must use dialogue tags at all, try to stick with ‘said’ and ‘asked’.  Let your characters words and actions show what they are doing and feeling rather than stick in a dialogue tag to tell them.

Other dialogue tags should be used very sparingly, if they are used at all.  If you are using other tags more than once in conversation, you are probably using them too often.  Dialogue tags should be nearly invisible to the reader, so when they aren’t, it needs to be important.  Emphasis.  Ye old out of character alert that something a bit out of the ordinary is going on here.  Used too often, they lose their impact and just become annoying.

Also, you can’t actually laugh a line of dialogue.  You can, however, say something while laughing or trying not to laugh.

And yes, I know, you’ll find English teachers, particularly at the Jr. High level, who tell you to use other words for dialogue tags.   I also know that while it is difficult, you must refrain from smacking them upside the head with the thesaurus.


Stone and Fire: Chapter 21

Liam ducked to avoid hitting his head on the entrance to their quarters.  Even inside, standing upright his hair just brushed the ceiling.  He started to turn toward Adaeze only for her to shove him forward lightly.  He smiled, but obeyed the direction.  Her hand on his shoulder guided him to his knees, and he bowed his head, awaiting her next command.  “Put your hands behind your back.”

As soon as he obeyed, she secured his wrists with a simple leather strap, buckling it into place.  She fixed a second strap just below his elbows, then a third just above.  Adaeze had been nervous about binding him while they were at sea, but he’d reminded her that he’d know if there was any danger.  Her hand traced up his back, then she wrapped it around his throat and pulled him back against her.  “Whatever am I to do with you?”  She smiled down at him.

“Anything you’d like.”  He returned her smile.  “I am yours.”


On Respect

I remember seeing this tumblr post.  And I remember thinking, yeah, that’s it exactly.  That sums it up.

When I was six years old, the Supreme Court upheld a ruling that being me is against the law.  I was thirteen when the state I was living in at the time passed a law saying otherwise.  I was twenty three when the supreme court reversed their decision, and decided being someone like me is in fact legal in every state in the US.

I was twenty four years old when a cop started hitting me with a nightstick for ‘resisting arrest’ because I dared to cite that Supreme Court  cause when he was writing me a citation for being who I am.  I questioned his ‘authority’.  I didn’t ‘comply’.  I didn’t treat him with ‘respect’.  So I was beaten, thrown into the back of a squad car, and got to spend two days in jail before getting medical attention.  Other things happened in those two days.  Some at the hands of cops.  Some simply due to the actions of those cops.  I was told I was lucky.  That I could have been killed.

And the people who told me that are right.  I was lucky.  I could have been killed.  And the cops would not have suffered any consequences for either killing me or letting me die in their custody.  Because I questioned their authority.  Because I ‘resisted’ being arrested for something that was no longer a crime.

I was left with medical expenses and court fines, plus I lost my job due to not being able to show up for work or call in those two days.  The cops suffered no consequences for those events.  I was told I would suffer consequences if I tried to file a complaint.  I had learned my lesson the first time.  I shut up.  I complied, so I wouldn’t die.

I’ve gone to many protests in my life.  I’ve seen cops seize any perceived disrespect as an excuse to engage in violence.  And when no such opportunity was afforded them, I’ve seen cops arrange the opportunity by pushing and shoving and threatening until finally someone snapped.  And when even that failed to happen, I’ve seen cops call in plain clothes to start the altercations so they had the excuse to swarm in.  Then it’s the same story on the news.  We deserved what happened to us, and we were lucky because it would have been okay to kill us.  We weren’t ‘complying’.  So we deserved to die and we should just be grateful.

I’d like to say there are good cops.  I wish I could say there are good cops.  But as Lieutenant General David Morrison stated: “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept”.

Stone and Fire : Chapter 20

Much to his irritation, it didn’t take long before he found himself actually liking the Wilder prince.  Barbarian he might have been, he was surprisingly knowledgeable.  Then again, this young man had been raised with the intention of ruling his country, rather than simply supporting his brother’s reign.  “But what if there is no loot to divide among the men?”

“There’s always loot.”  Jurgen shook his head.  “Just sometimes its intangible.  Take your own history.  Those bandits your people yanked out of the woods to help.  Was it pay that was offered?”

“No, it…”  Wendel slowly nodded.  “It was restoring their status as citizens of a country.”

“Pride.”  Jurgen shrugged.  “You’d be surprised how far that’ll take a man.  Paying your men is all well and good, but doesn’t you little if your opponent has more gold.”  He waved a hand.  “Learn their names, listen when they speak, tell them when they’ve done well, even if it’s just a quick nod of approval.”  Jurgen looked over at him.  “Man will fight dragons for a leader who treats him with respect.”

“Is that how Wilders do it?”  Wendel raised an eyebrow.  “I thought you just followed whoever promised a good fight at the end of the trip.”

Jurgen laughed.  “But that’s part of it, yes?”  He shook his head.  “You respect your men, but you don’t coddle the bastards.  That’s why we decided ruling your people wasn’t worth the effort.  Need your swaddling clothes changed too often.”

“And here I thought it was just because your people were too lazy to bother with the work of governing.”  Wendel rolled his eyes.

“You have confidence in your men.  You tell them that.  You tell them they are the most vicious fucks that were ever born and that their enemies are mere dogs before them.  You tell them that, and you believe it…”  Jurgen shifted a little in the saddle.  “And they’ll believe it too, and they’ll charge when you tell them.”

“Or stand…”  Wendel slowly nodded.  Then he took another look at Jurgen.  “Soldiers I have.  It’s rangers I need.  Where do I get them?”

“Well, you could pay a bunch of my people…”

“That would turn the nobility against me.”  Wendel shook his head.  “Or I rather think I would.”

“Then you get them the same place you got them the first time.  You need a man who can sneak into a camp and come back with something you can use…”  Jurgen gave him a serious look.  “Then it sounds like what you need is a thief.”

He laughed a little.  “Prince Jurgen…”  He smiled.  “If your people weren’t a bunch of undisciplined lunatics, I rather think you’d be dangerous.”

“Prince Wendel…”  Jurgen smirked.  “We’re dangerous because we’re a bunch of undisciplined lunatics.”

“That helps me with my army, but there are still the nobles to consider.  Many will back my brother because of what he promises.”

“Then you make it clear that first off, he can’t keep those promises.  Then you make it clear that following him might give them some small benefit, but not following you will cost them everything.”  Jurgen gave him a level look.  “Who is the most powerful of the nobles arrayed against you?”

“Duke Baasch.”

“You answered that quickly.”  Jurgen blinked.

“It’s not really a matter for debate.”  Wendel sighed.  “Frankly, I think he’s hoping my brother and I will kill each other and he’ll be able to come in and set himself up on the throne himself.”

“Well, that makes the solution even easier then.”  Jurgen grinned again.

“And this solution?”

“Kill the jackass.”

“It’s not that easy.”  Wendel started shaking his head.

“Yes, it is.”

“It’s really not.”

“Yeah, it is.”  Jurgen laughed.  “You call him out.  Challenge him.  Make him come to you, make sure people will laugh if he doesn’t.  Kick him right in the pride.”  Jurgen shrugged.  “Then, kick his ass.”

“I…”  Wendel opened his mouth.  Then he closed it again.  He tilted his head and frowned.  Then he nodded to himself.  “Actually, that’s rather good advice.”


Stone and Fire: Chapter 19

Jurgen stepped out onto the balcony into the morning sun and stretched.  His shoulders made a slight popping sound.  Then he exhaled, and started to turn back to the door when something caught his eye.  Then he led out a whoop and went over the railing.  He caught the light pole to break his fall, then swung down and landed a couple feet in front of the tall young man walking up the path.  When the young man smiled, Jurgen laughed before stepping forward to hug his brother.


Dragonlord : Chapter 1

“You need to hurry.”  Guard Captain Aurel guided the young duchess toward the passage.  The little girl was bravely trying not to cry.

Bastien swallowed past the lump in his own throat.  The attack had come suddenly.  Most of the guard had been cut down in the initial onslaught.  Duke Harald had welcomed his half-brother and retinue with open arms.  Now the duke was dead in the great hall, poisoned along with half his men.  Phillip’s mercenaries were slaughtering the remaining soldiers.

It had been pure luck they hadn’t been swept up in the initial attack.  Little Nadja had crept out of her quarters to visit her pup in the kennels.  She was clutching the little dog as if the puppy was all she had left in the world.  A glimpse of the carnage around the castle showed she might be right.

They were almost to the secret tunnel when a shout revealed they’d been spotted.  Bastien turned to look at his father, then at their position.  “I can hold them long enough for you to get her out.”

“Bastien…”  Aurel started to shake his head.

He looked from the girl to his father.  “The king knows you.  You’ve a better chance to get her to safety.  She is all that matters now.”

Aurel clearly wanted to argue.  Then he gave a furious shake of his head.  His voice was thick.  “Gods guide you, my son.”

“Safe journey, Father.”  His sword hilt felt cold in his hand as he drew the blade, preparing to buy his father time.


Truth and Shadows : Chapter 4

“For a couple months, things went smoothly for us.  We kept our relationship between us and…”  Viteri shifted a little.  “Ma’am, uh…”  He hesitated.

“Mr. Viteri?”  She raised an eyebrow.

“Well, it’s just you seem like a proper lady, so I’m not sure…”  He gave her an awkward look.  “Just there are places where the details are a little important so…”

“I’m a big girl, Mr. Viteri.”  She smiled a little.

“Right.  But if you get uncomfortable, then uh…”  He shrugged.  “Right.  Anyway.”  He took a deep breath.  “Tobias and I, we got to know each other in a lot of different ways, and we learned some things about ourselves too.”


Stone and Fire : Missing Scene

This vanished somehow.  Should be the first scene of chapter 17.


She looked up to see Liam watching her, a small smile on his face.  “What?”  Adaeze found herself feeling just a bit shy.

“I missed you.”  Liam shook his head, then sat down at her feet.  “I knew I would, I just…”  He twitched a shoulder.  “Didn’t realize how much.”

Adaeze put her hand on his shoulder.  “I missed you too.”  She laughed.  “I forgot for a few moments who you were.  Thought finding you again would be hard and…”  She leaned forward to rub the back of his neck lightly.  “And then you found us.”

“I always know where you are.”  Liam leaned slightly into her caress.  “I could be a thousand miles away and I could still close my eyes and point to your location on a map.”  He leaned forward then, and shifted awkwardly.  “I, uh…”  He exhaled, then handed her something wrapped in an intricately woven cloth.  “This is for you.”

“I thought you gave out all the presents you bought already.”  She felt a small thrill of excitement.  They traveled all over the world, and yet actual presents were a rare thing.

“This one is…”  He shifted again, and she saw a bit of blush rise to his cheeks.  “It’s special.  It’s um…”  He looked away, then touched the shark’s tooth around his neck.  “It’s from Koert.”

“You told Koert about me?”  Her eyes widened.  That was a surprise.  He’d been worried, before he left, that the queen might take offense if she knew he was Ilael.

“I…”  He looked down at the deck.  “Somehow I didn’t have to.  He just…”  He blushed harder.  “I don’t know what it is.”

Carefully, she opened it.  Her eyes widened as she looked at the gold circle.  The ends fastened together with a bit of leather lacing, and the design looked alien to her eyes.  Abstract patterns, like…  Like those on the vest Liam had been wearing when he’d returned to them.  Wilder designs.  “It’s beautiful.”  She slid down so she was sitting next to him.  “Help me put it on.”  She held up her wrist.

“It’s not…”  He took her arm, and instead of securing it to her wrist, he slid it up and put it around her upper arm before tying it, then twisted it so the laces weren’t visible.  Then he touched the pattern, running his fingers across it.  “The pattern signifies water.  The waterfall the Wilders call the Breath of Life.  The birthplace of all rivers.”

“That’s…”  She looked at the burnished gold against her arm.  “Perhaps Koert has a gift of his own.”

“I’ve always thought so.”  Liam brushed a bit of hair from her forehead.

She leaned forward to press her forehead against his.  “I’m glad you’re back.”

“Me too.”  He smiled.

Stone and Fire : Chapter 18

She lay next to him, her head on his shoulder, tucked under his chin.  Her hair was just long enough to tickle his nose.  It felt right, having her there.  She hadn’t untied him, but he knew she wasn’t asleep either.  Strange how even bound, he felt safe with her.  He let out a contented sigh.

“Falling asleep on me?”  She brushed a hand over his belly, barely avoiding a tickle.

“No.”  Liam smiled.  “Your hair smells faintly of ginger.”

Cuddled against him, she laughed.  “It’s only taken you three years to notice.”  She raised her head, then kissed the side of his jaw.

“I noticed the first time you used the rinse.”  He raised his head to touch his forehead to hers.  “Just as I noticed your eyes are like polished mahogany.  Brown with a hint of fire.”

“What else do you notice?”  She smiled down at him.

“That your skin is softer than the finest doeskin.  And you taste of…”  He gazed up at her.  “Autumn.”

Slowly, she came closer, then she pressed her lips against his.  He closed his eyes and drank her in, enjoying the sensation.  The shadows fled at her touch.  “Do you want me to untie you?”

Liam tilted his head before looking up at his bound wrists.  “Do you want to untie me?”

“I…”  She shifted, then sat up and put her leg over him to straddle his torso.  “Not really.  I like you like this.”  Adaeze’s smile was playful.  “You’re so tall most of the time, but here and now…”  She leaned down, then kissed him softly.  “You’re just the right height.”  She hesitated a moment after sitting up, chewing her lower lip.  “Another night, I would like to tie your legs as well.  But I’ll not push you further tonight.  You’re not ready.”

“I…”  He took a deep breath, nodding as he realized she was right.  “Thank you, Adaeze.”

“Liam…”  She ran her knuckles over his cheek, then down his throat.  “Tomorrow I intend to go to Uduak and tell her that I am claiming you.”

“Adaeze…”  He nodded.  “I have been yours since you smiled at me in a dream.”

Her eyes lit up as she bent down to kiss him again.


Stone and Fire : Chapter 17

Baako brushed hair back from her face, and smiled.  Uduak tiredly returned the smile, then looked over at where Liam sat, holding the newborn.  Her son was staring at her daughter with a wonder-filled smiled on his face as he cuddled her protectively.  “What do you see, little lamb?”  She sat up a little, then regretted it as the ship rocked.

“Ama.”  Liam’s voice held awe.  “So many possibilities.  Like the breath of life crossing the world.”  He touched her cheek.  “The storm is singing to her.”  He tilted his head, then shifted to turn to the sailor near the door.  “No.  Tell them to turn to port.  We will hit reefs if we try to ride the edge.  Into the storm, and all deck hands tether.  It will be hard but over fast.”

“You heard him.”  Uduak gestured.  It was almost unnecessary.  Her crew had been thrilled at her son’s return.  They knew well not to doubt him.  The Phoenix had little reason to fear anything while he was aboard.

The ship lurched again, but it didn’t take long before she could feel the sea calming around them.  “Ama.”  Liam lifted the infant so he could whisper to her.  “Don’t worry.  I’ll make sure they don’t catch you.”  He winked at Uduak.

She let out a sigh before laying back and looking up at her husband.  “It is as you feared.”  Her voice was grave.

“They’ve allied against us.”  He gave her a despairing look.  “May the sea have mercy.”


Stone and Fire : Chapter 16

Diantha looked over the holdings.  It was somewhat better than a pittance, but still less than half of what Jurgen had received.  Though to be fair, Jurgen had inherited from his father as well.  To be even more fair, Levi’s holdings had been confiscated by Thirza, and thus could have been passed to Lammert.  “Vulkyr borders the lands attached to Fort Valyk.  It’s all wild woods there.”

“You can consider yourself permitted to utilize the land.  I trust you to make fair recompense.”  Lammert smiled as he looked over the documents.  “I’ll need a steward for most of the holdings.”  He gave a small frown.  “Hopefully the revenue from Kindir will be enough to start the work Wharf Tower.”

“You do intend to hold it?”  Diantha gave him a surprised look.  “Lammert, it’s years away from habitable.”

“And the docks are poorly designed.  They are incapable of handling the very vessels capable of making the trip.”  Lammert shook his head.  “I think I’d be better served rebuilding than repairing.”  He moved to the map.  “Clan Valyk has a holding here, yes?”

“Yes.”  She looked over the map.  “We control a fortress here.”

“I don’t have means yet to keep the builders safe.  Would you consider a bargain of trade rights in exchange for protection?”

“You don’t have trade coming in yet, Lammert.”  She gave a small shake of her head.  “You’re asking me to gamble my people on your success.”

“Until I have success, your people won’t be in danger.”  He shrugged.

“I…”  She nodded.  “Fair point.  Valyk pays no tariff for foreign trade.”

“Valyk may use the southern dock without paying tariffs.”

“Done.”  She offered her hand to his, and he shook it just as Jurgen walked in.

“Should I be worried about this?”  Jurgen raised an eyebrow.

“If your brother can make good on his end, I just got us tariff free trade with Solsthriem and you can tell Clan Merkir to go bugger their ‘safe passage’ tithes.”  She smirked, then narrowed her eyes.  “Wait until he’s made good on his end though, I don’t want the tithes going up in the meantime.”

“I was hoping you’d just let me conquer them.”  Jurgen gave a disappointed sigh.

“Long as they are paying tribute to clan Draak, you can’t.”  She looked down at the map again.  If Lammert could get the Wharf Tower going…  “Solsthriem however, might be an issue.”

“It won’t.”  Lammert shrugged.

“You sound pretty sure about that.”  Jurgen chuckled.

“The future king owes me a favor.”  Lammert moved some of the parchment around.  “By the time Wharf Tower is repaired, he’ll be on the throne and we’ll be establishing set routes.”

“You know, when he says things like that it’s really tempting to believe him.”  Diantha grinned.


Stone and Fire : Chapter 15

Three days after his arrival, he slipped out of his room under the cover of darkness.  Climbing over onto the other balcony was easy enough.  He sat down against the wall, and waited.  It didn’t take long.  “Rutger.”

The toddler looked shocked that he found someone waiting for him on the balcony.  The boy had emerged quietly from the other room.  “Lam’rt.”  Rutger looked down at the sleeping infant in his arms.

“He’s quieter when he’s asleep.”  Liam patted his knee.  “Sit with me?”

Rutger came over and sat down.  “He loud.”

“Very.”  Liam put an arm around Rutger’s shoulders, pulling the toddler close.  “The stars are different here, then they are in the south.  They make different pictures in the sky.”

“Pictures?”  Rutger looked up at him.

He pointed, sketching the shapes as he drew.  “That’s the great wolf, who prowled these lands a thousand years ago.  He preyed on people until one day, the hero Rutger…”  He ruffled Rutger’s hair.  “The one you were named for, discovered if you drop flint it breaks into sharp blades.  He cut strands from his hair and braided them into rope to tie one of the blades to a stick, creating the first spear.  The first weapon of man.”

“He kill wolf?”  Rutger’s eyes widened.

“He wounded it, and it fled into the sky.”  He moved his finger down to chase the next image.  “Rutger followed, with his spear. He chases it still, keeping it from turning its fangs against his people.”  He looked down at Rutger again.  “The first hero of all the Wildlands.”

“Named for me!”  Rutger grinned up at him, showing crooked baby teeth.

Liam laughed.  “You want to be a hero, Rutger?”  When Rutger nodded eagerly, Liam glanced down at the slumbering Marinus.  “Heroes look out for people who can’t look out for themselves.  Like their little brothers.”  He touched the infant.  “They don’t dump them off the balcony.”

“He loud.”  Rutger looked down at the infant, then shook his head.  “He in my bed.”

“I know.”  He brushed his fingers through Rutger’s hair.  “Because you are a big boy now.  That’s why you have my old room.”

“Your room?”

“Which means I have to sleep in Jurgen’s quarters.”  He lowered his head and whispered conspiratorially.  “He snores like a rampaging boar.”

A giggle escaped Rutger, and he imitated the sound.  Liam imitated it was well, making a more grandiose production.  Then, from Rutger’s arms, came a similar sound from the still sleeping Marinus.  They both stared at the infant for a moment.  Then Rutger exhaled.  “I wanted sister.”  He looked back up at Liam.  “Or a puppy.”

“It may take a while…”  He bumped his forehead against Rutger’s.  “But you’ll find brothers are almost as good as puppies.”

They looked up as Thirza stepped onto the balcony.  “What’s going on?”  She glanced at them.

“Chasin wolves!”  Rutger pointed up at the stars.  “There’s me!”

Thirza turned her eyes to him, giving him a confused look.  It was strange, having her eyes looking at him and not feeling…  small.  It wasn’t her eyes that had changed.  “Rutger was feeling a little left out with Marinus around.”  He looked back at Rutger.  “Why don’t you give Marinus to your mother?  He’s little and not as brave yet as you are, and I won’t want to scare him when I tell you about the giant sea turtles.”

To his surprise, he heard Thirza laugh as Rutger scrambled to his feet to shove Marinus at her.  She took the infant, then nodded.  “Don’t keep your brother up too late, Rutger.  He’s had a long journey.”  She smiled before carrying the infant in.

“Turtles.”  Rutger plunked himself back down next to Liam and looked up at him eagerly.


Stone and Fire: Chapter 14

Jurgen’s hug nearly took him off his feet and cracked his ribs.  Before he could quite catch his breath, Koert was there, also hugging him.  “You’re alive.”  Tears were visible on Jurgen’s cheeks.  “You’re alive.”

A shadow passed over them, and he looked up to see Thirza on her feet, staring.  The scepter was in her hands.  She looked down at it, then back at him.  Slowly, she descended the couple steps to him.  Her hand reached out and touched his cheek lightly before it was pulled away again.  Then she gave a small shake of her head and to his surprise, she smiled.  An actual warm smile, not the tight-lipped expression she’d always given him before.  The scepter gleamed as she held it above her head, the glow visible to all.  “My son.”  Her voice was loud, echoing through the hall.  She lowered the scepter again.  “You have returned.”

“I have.”  He squared his shoulders, his back straight.

“Lammert Draak.”  She inclined her head.  It took him a couple heartbeats to recognize the name as his.  There was a moment of uncertainty in her expression, then she slid into the ritualistic words.  “You left us a boy.  Your clan welcomes your return as a man.”  She lifted her head, raising her voice as she continued the speech.

No sooner did the speech end than Jurgen was dragging him out of the hall toward the royal quarters.  His brother kept a tight grip on his arm.  They were halfway down the corridor to the residence when Jurgen finally stopped.  He caught Liam’s shoulders, then looked him over, his face incredulous.  “You’re alive.”

In his memory, his brother was a giant that towered over him.  Now, though, he could nearly look Jurgen in the eye.  “I…”  Before he could say anything, there were footstep rushing up behind them.  Koert was in the lead, a toddler on his hip.  A large man he didn’t recognize followed a pace behind, holding an infant.  Diantha was a step behind Thirza, and Diantha was also carrying…  Liam’s eyes widened as he turned back to his brother.  “You’re a father.”

“Yes, I…”  Jurgen started laughing, then pulled him into another hug, pounding on his back before turning.  “Rutger.”  He gestured for Koert to bring the toddler closer.  “You remember your brother?”

“Brudder?”  Rutger looked confused.  Then he turned to look at the baby the other man was holding, then back at Jurgen.  He scratched his head.  “Brudder?”

“We thought you dead.”  Thirza gave a small shake of her head.  “We…”  She turned toward Jurgen, and her face was slightly pale.  “Jurgen, you found his horse.”

“What happened?”  Koert stared.

“Where have you been?”  Diantha half spoke over Koert.

“Who are you?”  The big man gave him a confused look.  The others all turned toward the big man.  The big man shrugged.  “Who is he?”

“Lammert, this is Pauwel.”  Jurgen slung an arm around Liam’s shoulders.  “Our queen mother’s new husband.  And this —”  He gestured at the infant Pauwel was holding.

“Marinus Draak.”  Liam nodded.  “My new brother.”  He smiled, then looked over Pauwel.  He’d seen the man before, in one of his dreams.  It was difficult to keep the smile on his face when he realized which dream.

Pauwel nodded, then grinned.  He offered the infant to Thirza, who took the babe.  Then to Liam’s surprise, the big man stepped forward and engulfed him in a hug, actually lifting him a couple inches of the ground.  “Welcome back.  Good to have all our boys home.”


Stone and Fire : Chapter 13

“You’re sure?”  Uduak held Liam to her.

“If I don’t go…”  Liam wiped at his eyes.  “My brother will die.  And…”  He curled in a little on himself.  “I…”  He took a deep breath.  “He’s not born yet.  He won’t be able to defend himself at all.”

“Liam…”  She rubbed his hair.

“I’ll come back.  That’s…”  He leaned his head on her.  “This is home.  I’ll come back.”

She could feel him shaking.  Her son, so brave and wise.  He’d been given his gifts for a reason.  “You must hold your course, my little lamb.  The sea will be here when you return.”  She put her chin atop his head.  “We’ll go up river.  Take you as far as we can.”