A Conversation Between Ronan and Lena

(This unpublished passage occurs shortly after Ronan convinces Lena to join forces with him in order to track down Jute. Chronologically, it would take place sometime in the middle of The Shadow at the Gate.)

“I knew one man who ran afoul of Nio Secganon several years ago,” said Ronan, starting to enjoy his own lies. “He looked at him funny, or knocked over his ale while sitting at a tavern counter, or insulted his hat – I can’t remember which – and that was the end of him.” Ronan shuddered and shook his head. “It was horrible!”

“What happened to him?”

“Well, the man strolled out of the tavern that night and was promptly knocked on the head. He woke up with a knot on his head like an egg, and wound around with so many ropes that he could hardly breathe. Nio Secganon was standing there in front of him. He has enormous eyes, Nio does. He never blinks. He just stares like an owl, and those eyes of his glow in the dark! He can see right around corners!”

“So what happened then?” asked Lena. Her own eyes had gone about as wide as an owl’s as well.

“What happened when?”

“What happened to the cully with the bump on his head?!”

“Oh him. Right. Nio Secganon says to him, ‘Why’d you go knocking my hat off, friend?’ and the fellow can’t –”

“I thought you said he knocked over his ale. Not his hat.”

“Hat, ale – it was one of the two. Maybe he knocked over both. Shut your mouth and let me finish the story.”

“Oh, alright,” said Lena, but she shut her mouth, for she liked stories, especially if they were scary and had lots of fighting in them.

“Anyway, the fellow can’t say a single word, he’s that terrified. He can’t even get his mouth open to squeak. ‘Ah,’ says Nio Secganon. ‘Cat’s got your tongue, don’t he?’ And with that, a black cat comes strolling out of nowhere and, sure enough, the cat has the poor fellow’s tongue in its mouth. He can’t say anything now, that’s for certain, but Nio Secganon has plenty to say. He taps his chin as if he’s thinking a bit, and then says, ‘Tell you what, friend. I don’t need your eyes and I don’t need your heart and I don’t need your bones – I’ve got bottles and chests and baskets full of ‘em – come back another time and I might have use for yours. However, I do have a debt to be paid, and you can do the paying for me.’”

“With that, Nio Secganon stamped once, twice, three times on the stone floor. It shook and groaned and then split open. A big, ugly ogre pops his head out and says, ‘Nio Secganon, whadaya doing, bothering us with all your racket? Whadaya doing with your stomping and your stamping?’ And the wizard says to him, ‘Look here now. I owe you more than a handful, don’t I?’ The ogre makes a grab for him, but Nio Secganon just jumps out of reach. ‘That you do,’ says the ogre. ‘That you do.’ The wizard points to the poor fellow sitting there all bound like a spider’s fly and says, ‘Then how about this to even things up, eh?’ The ogre nods and says, ‘That’ll do. That’ll do.’ Without another word, the ogre grabs the man and dives back down into the ground without even a thank you. And that’s what happens, Lena, when you cross a wizard like Nio Secganon!”

“But what happened then?” asked Lena, horrified and delighted at the same time. “What happened to the man?”

“Oh, any number of things,” said Ronan with a careless wave of his hand. “He probably spent the rest of his life slaving in an emerald mine. Ogres love emerald – rather daft, as they don’t do anything with them. Maybe the ogre ground up his bones to make bread. Or perhaps he was kept to polish boots and mop the hall and muck out the kitchen. At any rate, I don’t know what happened to him after the ogre took him.”

“You shouldn’t tell a story,” said Lena, “unless you know how it ends.”

“Most stories,” said Ronan, “don’t ever have an end. By the way, what did you do with my knife?”

“I sold it.”


3 thoughts on “A Conversation Between Ronan and Lena

    • It is a good principle, and it’s one that trips me up all the time. A nice story idea comes along and then, for the life of me, I can’t figure out how it ends.

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