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Ka'harja's Journey, Chapter 7 excerpt:

‘Well, uh—’

Before he could get the words out of his mouth, Annanyn plopped herself between the pair and offered them both fish from her complicated-looking platter. As she turned to Ka’harja her face pulled in a grimace. ‘What’s that smell?’

‘What smell?’ Sken asked.

‘Smells like mouldy cloth,’ Annanyn muttered, sniffing at the air. ‘I think someone’s cast magic here recently.’

‘What?’ Ka’harja laughed. ‘What are you talking about?’

Annanyn was too busy sniffing to respond, so Sken answered for her. ‘She’s an aura sensor. She can smell magic.’

‘Smell magic?’ Ka’harja echoed. ‘I though aura sensors … sensed magic.’

‘Smell is a sense,’ Sken scoffed, rolling her eyes and grinning playfully. ‘Every aura sensor is different. Annanyn smells it. … What sort of magic is it, puddle-hopper?’


‘Sken! NO!’ Annanyn grabbed her wife’s hands in hers and squeezed tightly. ‘Never say that. I love you as you are. And I thought— I assumed— That we were going to adopt.’

‘Adopt?’ Sken paled as realisation washed over her face. ‘Oh, Goddess. I never even thought about that—’

‘—I was waiting to suggest it,’ Annanyn swallowed. ‘Until we were ready.’

Sken took a deep breath, her gills quivering. ‘I’ve been ready for years. I’ve been sorry for years...’


This is pretty long, but I'm very happy with it! It's actually from a published chapter, so if you want to read the whole thing properly formatted you can find the series HERE.

Ka'harja's had an awkward day. Annanyn offers to sit with him so he can have a break, and accidentally tells him her entire life story.

1780 words

‘Hey Ka’harja, are you alright?’

He nearly jumped out of his skin as Annanyn put a hand on his back.

Great Star! Could he not go anywhere in this place without someone trying to talk to him?

‘Yeah, I’m fine,’ he lied. ‘Just … thinking.’

‘About Coff?’ Annanyn asked.

‘Wh— What makes you think that?’

‘I saw you two talking. It looked awkward,’ she gave him a sympathetic smile and readjusted Little Demon in her arms— Ka’harja had almost missed the tiny little lad until he’d let out a tired murmur.

‘Hey, you little fucker,’ Ka’harja couldn’t help bending down and smooching the boy’s nose.

‘Don’t call him that!’ Annanyn gasped, quickly planting her own kisses over the baby. ‘You’re not a swear-word! You’re a brave little man!’

Ka’harja couldn’t help but giggle. ‘I mean, I’m not good with kids, but I’m pretty sure it’s okay to swear in front of a one-month-old. He’s not going to repeat it!’

‘You’re right, you’re not good with kids,’ Annanyn scoffed. When she was done rolling her eyes her smile returned, creasing her chubby cheeks against her eyes in a cheeky grin as she gave her fins a happy flick. ‘I’m so lucky Stars is letting me look after him. I can’t wait to adopt my own little cutie!’

‘Right, coz you’re gay!’ Ka’harja blurted. ‘I mean— Well yeah. … Because of that.’

He was glad Annanyn had a sense of humour.

‘Yes,’ she giggled. ‘Unless the gods put a child in me, I really doubt it’s going to happen any other way.’

‘Right,’ Ka’harja coughed. ‘So. … How is Sken? I haven’t seen her all day.’

‘Busy,’ Annanyn replied, her shoulders sagging as she sighed. ‘I haven’t seen her much, either.’

‘Sounds lonely,’ he wasn’t sure if he should put a hand on her shoulder? Maybe. … Oh gods why was she so sticky?

Ka’harja remembered she was a seces at the last moment, and swallowed the sick feeling that her slimy skin left in his chest.

This was a mistake. But he couldn’t just take his hand away, now.

Maybe a quick pat?

Pat pat.

Was that enough pats?

Maybe he should. …

Pat.

That seemed about right.

‘Are you sure you’re okay?’ Annanyn asked carefully. ‘You don’t seem okay.’

‘I’m fine,’ he repeated his lie, though this time it came out a little less confident. And this time, it was obvious Annanyn didn’t believe him.

‘Would you like to come sit with me?’ she offered. ‘In my caravan. I have to double check the books —stock and stuff— and it’d be nice to have some company. We don’t have to talk or anything.’

‘Uh, sure,’ Ka’harja liked the idea of that. Just quietly blending into the background was when he felt most comfortable.

Annanyn nodded and then, as if to prove she wasn’t going to bother him by talking, turned around without another word and began her way back to her private caravan.

She held the door open for Ka’harja, who wasn’t sure if his quiet thank-you was heard. But he was too embarrassed to repeat himself and instead plopped himself down on the floor next to the bathtub-bed and rubbed the tense muscles in his neck.

Annanyn took her place at a small, book-covered desk that resembled Coff’s and began carefully moving stacks of paper from a nearby shelf onto her workspace.

Ka’harja felt … awkward, sitting in silence. He knew Annanyn had said they didn’t have to talk but he— He actually sort of wanted to talk to her? He couldn’t believe it. Just a month ago if she’d come over he’d have retreated into the pantry and hidden away to avoid conversation. Now he had the urge to start a conversation with her. …

Would it be rude to talk while she was working? Should he say something or should he keep quiet?

He watched her scribble away for a few minutes before finally deciding to say something.

‘That’s a lot of math,’ he offered. ‘I’m not too good at math. I know that’s not the best thing to hear from an alchemist but. … Uh. … I’ve just never been able to sit down and focus long enough to figure it out. You know?’

‘Oh, yes, I understand completely!’ Annanyn’s excited tone reassured Ka’harja he’d made the right choice as she turned in her chair and raised her gills. ‘I used to be terrible at it! So terrible my parents actually considered sending me to the Gallamor to study! But luckily for me, while my surrogate was looking into it my genitor got offered a job in Dr’oy, and they forgot about it during the move. I wasn’t going to remind them, so I was spared. Until I got fired from my first job for math-related reasons. Then my surrogate lost xer mind! Xie started talking about sending me to boarding school again, so I faked a job offer from a company in Canis La’Can. I’d say it was a mistake, because that place was cold, but I met Sken there, so not really. And— And. … I’ve been talking for a while, haven’t I?’

‘Keep going,’ Ka’harja grinned. ‘How’d you and Sken meet? I want to hear it!’

The look on Annanyn’s face was well worth the high-pitch scree that escaped her gills as she continued, ‘Well, I met Sken a few weeks after moving to La’Can! I was looking for a place to stay, but not many people wanted to give board to a sixteenth-eclipser without a job— And not many places wanted to give a job to someone without a mailing address. So I … may have stolen a few wallets and tried to fake being a lady called Luronne.’

Ka’harja was so shocked he almost laughed. He couldn’t believe Annanyn had ever broken the law! She always seemed so sweet! But here she was, lying to her parents, running away from home, stealing wallets and— ‘You stole someone’s identity?’

‘Tried to. Only she was pretty well-known, so it didn’t work. I was just lucky she didn’t press charges,’ Annanyn shook her head and grinned. ‘I was legally an adult by seces law, and old enough to live alone by wolven law, so if she’d not had a sense of humour I could have ended up in jail!’

‘Shit, you were a rebel!’ Ka’harja almost wanted to tell her his own wild adventures stealing and lying his way through life— But bit his tongue. He’d stolen from her, after all. It was a bit more awkward to explain then stealing from a complete stranger. … Though she’d been a stranger when he’d done it.

‘Don’t swear in front of the baby!’ Annanyn scolded in a hushed voice. She grinned again as she continued, ‘Needless to say, they booked me a boat back to Dr’oy. Which I missed four times before they gave up on me. Then I saw Felelor again— Oh, I don’t think I told you how we met?’

‘He told me before,’ Ka’harja chuckled. ‘Jumped in front of a valenor and saved your life.’

Annanyn nodded, flicking her gills and smiling widely. ‘Felelor was an absolute sweetheart and let me stay at his place while he was recovering from his injuries. In return I had to do things for him that he couldn’t do. Like getting groceries. The local shopkeepers shadowed me whenever I dared set foot in their stores, though, and apparently Felelor got a few letters about what I’d done.’

‘Ooh, letters?’

‘Yeah,’ Annanyn giggled. ‘I don’t think he really cared too much. I’m grateful for that, because it got cold real fast and I was a really stubborn teenager. … I would have frozen before I went home. It was actually one of the cold days I met Sken! I went to the market to pick up potatoes with Naranako and bumped into her in the crowd. … I remember the look she gave me; I think she just fell in love with me on the spot. She offered to carry my bags— Sort of. She was really flustered and couldn’t get the words out, and it was cute, so I asked if she wanted to walk with us and, well. … Two years later we got married and started travelling. … Oh, Scara. This was meant to be about math! I’m so sorry. If I even think of Sken I just sort of. … Get distracted.’

‘You tell stories like I do,’ Ka’harja chuckled.

Annanyn’s cheeks turned a deep green and she bit her lip. ‘So much for not-talking, huh?’

‘I started it, and I really enjoyed hearing about your life!’ he replied, moving to sit on his tail so Annanyn wouldn’t see it wagging— He realised too late that he’d only brought attention to it, and blushed as Annanyn giggled. ‘Hey— Uh, maybe a bit personal, but in all honesty … I’ve never been in a good relationship before and I was curious. … What do you two do when you fight? If you’ve ever fought before? I always seem to fall out with my boyfriends over one thing or another. Any advice?’

‘We disagree on plenty of things,’ Annanyn’s impish grin returned and she leant in close. ‘But usually I just compliment her muscles and she caves and lets me get my way.’

‘Somehow, I don’t feel that would work for me,’ Ka’harja gave a dramatic sigh that ended with an involuntary giggle. ‘But yeah, I’ve seen you do that to your wuvly Skenny-poo!’

‘Shh!’ Annanyn covered her mouth and clamped down her gills, trying to muffle her snicker. ‘Great Star, Ka’harja! Don’t! She’ll hear you!’

‘Weally? You weally weally tink so?’ Ka’harja teased. ‘Your big stwong kelp knot will hear me? Wot will she do to me?’

‘I’ll beat the living shit out of you!’ Sken’s voice nearly gave Ka’harja a heart attack.

He was on his feet before she managed to shut the door, and was halfway to the back of the room before Annanyn made it the three steps forward to kiss her wife.

‘You’re done setting up camp?’ she asked, a desperate hint in her voice as she buried her face into Sken’s chest. ‘I’ve missed you!’

‘I’ve missed you too, puddle-hopper. Sorry today was so long,’ Sken whispered into the top of Annanyn’s head. She breathed her in for a long moment before pulling away and turning to Ka’harja, her dreamy eyes turning into a death-glare as she flicked her barbed tail in his direction. ‘If I ever hear you refer to me as “kelp knot” again. …’

‘I understand.’

Sken gave a humoured snort before putting her arms back around Annanyn and grinning. ‘I caught you a walleye.’


‘Why won’t you talk to me?’ she cried, grabbing her wife around the waist.

Sken froze in place, and for a long moment she just stood there.

‘Please talk to me,’ Annanyn sobbed. ‘Why don’t you trust me!’

Then Sken turned, and put her arms around her wife. ‘I trust you.’

‘Then why does how Stars feels matter?’

‘I don’t want to lose you,’ Sken’s gills clamped, and she let out a sob. ‘She has everything I can’t give you and it makes me so scared I can’t breathe.’

‘You’ve got more than she could ever offer me,’ Annanyn said softly, leaning into Sken’s chest and hugging her. ‘You will never, ever lose me. I promise.’

‘She’s everything I want to be,’ Sken said, her voice quivering. ‘And she. … I know it’s stupid, but I feel like she’s going to take everyone from me. Like Koko and— And you.’

Annanyn’s lights lit up; though for once, it wasn’t a happy glow. She threw her arms around her wife and squeezed her tightly. ‘I would never leave you.’

Sken shivered, and looked away. ‘Even if it meant you could have a child?’

‘No, not even if it meant I could have a child,’ she replied, her voice calmed and her lights dimmed. ‘Because if I couldn’t raise them with you— Well … what would the point of it be?’


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