Artifice: Episode One HTML version

Chapter 1
John didn’t need to open his eyes to tell that the fireplace had gone out. Thankfully, he had
at least managed to keep enough of his faculties last night to ensure that he had covered himself
with a blanket. Unfortunately, those same faculties had failed to tell him to sleep on the bed.
At least I ended up on the couch, rather than the floor this time, he thought.
With a tired motion he tossed the blanket to one side, got up, and stretched with a tired
yawn. He then glanced at the corner of the room which, until recently, had contained a small
stack of wood.
Shaking off the lingering remnants of sleep, he finally noticed the wind howling outside.
Seeing the mid- morning sun obscured by the falling snow was sight enough to make him groan
Best check the fences now before it gets much worse. Last thing I need is another skunk
getting through and spraying the cabin, he thought, silently cursing his laziness and wishing that
he hadn’t put it off since last evening.
As best as he could in his current state, he attempted a short whistle. Then, from the
bedroom, he heard what could only be the sound of two bodies jumping off the bed and
scurrying toward him.
He bent down and fondly rubbed the heads of the two great shaggy dogs which, contrary to
his condition, appeared brim- full of energy.
“Wanted the bed all for yourselves again, and decided to leave me on the couch, I see?” he
fondly teased. “Maybe I should get a second bed for the two of you.”
He rethought that, “On second thought, maybe not. Each of you would probably try to stake
a claim on one bed apiece, and I’ll still be stuck on the couch.”
One barked and wagged her tail, as if in response.
“Quietly, Penny”, he moaned with a hand going to the side of his head. “I’m still trying to
gather my wits from last night”, he added while sneaking a guilty glace at the near empty
decanter on the table.
Penny cocked her head and looked quizzically at him.
“I know, I know. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Come, we’ll take a walk, check the
fences, and get our… well… my head cleared up.”
With the two dogs trailing behind, he walked up to the closet and opened the door to get a
Then, to his eternal and certainly unexpected surpr ise, he saw a dragon staring back at him.
Rheus turned the round stone over in his palm and closely examined it. The material itself
was nothing remarkable, and appeared to simply be a common rock that one would encounter
anywhere. However, the strange geometric engravings were a novelty he hadn’t seen before. It
didn’t resemble any written language he’d encountered, and more so, it seemed to trigger a sense
of unease in Rheus.
Just my imagination, Rheus thought to himself.
“Wherever did you find this, Mag?” he asked.
-Far-, he heard her reply.
“I’m guessing this was the reason for your extended trip?’