Serving Azar (Sandcastle 13.13)


Azar paused, mid-chew, when Rayven set a glass of water on the table. Rayven bowed his head and backed away on silent bare feet, cursing himself for being noticed. Azar didn’t like interruptions of any sort, especially the kind that broke his train of thought. Usually Rayven was better about being even more inconspicuous than the shadows Azar could bend to his will. He gulped, stepping into his designated place against the stone wall, head down, braced for punishment.

Azar finished chewing and swallowed. “Thank you, Rayven,” he said softly, seizing the glass and taking a long drink.

Rayven blinked—the only physical response to his surprise. Thank you. It had been a long time since he’d heard those words.

Despite the rare kindness, he knew better than to say, “You’re welcome,” or even, “Yes, Master.” Silence was always the best answer. If Azar had wanted a response, his red eyes would have found Rayven, but they remained trained on his meal, so Rayven kept his trained on his dirty toes, ever conscious of his surroundings and his master’s movements in his peripheral.

Azar set the glass down and picked up his steak knife. As he sawed at the meat, he said, “I think I’ll be sending you back to Cröendor for reconnaissance on the fugitives.”

Although he hadn’t glanced at Rayven standing statuesque and obedient against the wall, Rayven replied, “Yes, Master.”

“You’ll leave before dark.”

“Yes, Master.”

Quiet chewing filling the void between them. Azar swallowed. “It’s a dangerous assignment. Are you afraid?”

His chilling red eyes locked onto Rayven, studying him carefully. Rayven glanced briefly up at his master, then down again. Yes, he was afraid. His spies were being knocked out of the skies and arranged, dead, on the ground in front of the Rip as a warning he could not ignore. “I will obey, Master.”

“That’s not what I asked.”

Rayven chewed on the inside of his cheek, head tilted so Azar couldn’t see his nervous tic. Lying was no worse than not answering a direct question. “Perhaps a little,” he admitted, curling his fingers into his moist palms behind his back.

Azar grunted in acknowledgment and took another sip. “I’m giving you a direct order. You will not allow yourself to die on this mission. Do you understand?”

Rayven nodded. He liked to pretend the order stemmed from compassion, although in all likelihood, it was exclusive to protecting a long-term investment and valuable asset. Compassion was not part of the equation, and Rayven was not foolish enough to believe otherwise. It was only an entertaining fancy.

“I understand, Master.”

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I'm an award-winning fantasy author, artist, and photographer from La Porte, Indiana. My poetry, short fiction, and memoir works have been featured in various anthologies and journals since 2005, and several of my poems are available in the Indiana Poetry Archives. The first three novels in my Chronicles of Avilésor: War of the Realms series have received awards from Literary Titan.

After some time working as a freelance writer, I was shocked by how many website articles are actually written by paid "ghost writers" but published under the byline of a different author. It was a jolt seeing my articles presented as if they were written by a high-profile CEO or an industry expert with decades of experience. I'll be honest; it felt slimy and dishonest. I had none of the credentials readers assumed the author of the article actually had. Ghost writing is a perfectly legal, astonishingly common practice, and now, AI has entered the playing field to further muddy the waters. It's hard to trust who (or what) actually wrote the content you'll read online these days.

That's not the case here at On The Cobblestone Road. I do not and never will pay a ghost writer, then slap my name on their work as if I'd written it. This website is 100% authentic. No outsourcing. No ghost writing. No AI-generated content. It's just me... as it should be.

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3 thoughts on “Serving Azar (Sandcastle 13.13)

  1. Also, your drawing of the rayven is gorgeous! I’m absolutely amazed with your talent! Keep up the great work!

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