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The Maker is Back!

The Maker front

It’s been a long time coming, but The Maker is back! Welcome to the world of Shakazhan – again – where our heroes wait for the Kahlea Grand Master to arrive. Though he may not be there yet, he’s got plenty of resources and angry slaves to send their way. As if the threat of interplanetary warfare isn’t enough, they are also getting attacked from inside the planet. It seems that nowhere, and no time, is safe from the Kahlea’s flunkies. It’s Mariah’s first birthday and everyone is relaxed, enjoying the celebration.

The party was in full swing, Happy Birthday was about to be sung and cake served when Wil got the first tingle of trouble. He couldn’t explain how he knew something was wrong, but it was as if he felt a change in the wind. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up, getting his full and undivided attention. He could see that several of the Cousins, Marc and Ben all had the same feeling, the look in their eyes unmistakable.

“Get the children inside quickly!” Wil’s voice carried all over the compound. The call was taken up by the other leaders. Mothers ran for their little ones. Older children grabbed the younger and they made their way quickly and quietly to the nearest training hall. Guards were posted and the doors locked tightly.

“They can get out in an emergency, but nothing can get in there, at least I hope not! Hammer!”

“Yes, Wil.”

“Evacuate the children, you see them?”

“Yes, Anvil has already begun. Styx and Quick Silver will also be working at it. Don’t worry about the children.”

“Does anyone see anything? Talk to me!” Comunits popped and crackled with static, something that never happened. “What’s going on? Talk to me!”

Wil ran wildly around the compound checking on the others. Matilda joined him as soon as she was certain the children were taken care of.

“What’s happening, Wil?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think anyone does, but something is up. Sentience!”

She didn’t reply right away. After a short, uncomfortable pause, she answered. “Yes, Wil?”

“Tell me what’s wrong, I can taste it on the wind.”

“I am afraid there has been an insurgence from below.”

“Coming from where?”

Sentience hesitated, her voice deeply concerned when she replied. “From the Chimarria.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Wil’s voice was harsh with reprimand. “Where are they coming up?”

“They come from the hills, the mountains and the plains. They have found many outlets which were sealed. They broke through.”

“So what you’re telling me is that we’re surrounded and your bots didn’t stop them?”

The fighters scrambled and the cats prepared to do a swift reconnaissance of the area surrounding them. The foot soldiers and armored divisions took their spots waiting for news.

“Talk to me, Cap!”

“Difficult to see, Wil. There’s an unusual cloud cover. We picked up some life forms in the foothills, but it was cattle, not devils. Dropping below the clouds a wee bit more.”

A few tense moments passed, then Cavitus’ voice broke through the silence. A loud, long caterwaul echoed in Wil’s head.

“I see them! Strange robots to the north-northwest, hundreds of them! Heavily armed, I don’t see energy weapons, but do see projectile weapons. Shall I strafe them?”

“Not yet. If they get within three clix of the compound, open fire.”

“There are more from due west, Wil,” Ariella added.

“I see about a hundred, maybe a hundred and fifty to the southeast. Where the hell are they all coming from?” This last from Escascia.

“Defensive positions. I want my Marines in the tanks outside the compound now! Targets of opportunity. Let’s not mess this up!”

Wil and Matilda ran to the nearest training building, climbing the ladder on the outside wall. They took a position on the roof. It was from this vantage point that they first saw the wave of Blue Devils.

“Look!” Matilda pointed beyond the lines of Blue Devils. Something else, bigger, more menacing followed them in a darker cloud against the night. “What are they?”

Wil shook his head. “No idea. Sentience? What’s with them?” No answer. “Sentience, answer me!Dammit! All right, we do this our way, people! Wait until you have a clear target, let them attack first. Give them the opportunity to surrender.” He sighed deeply, “If they don’t, vaporize them.”

Matilda’s gaze held worry and a hint of reprimand, but she couldn’t deny this was an aggressive move on the part of the Chimarria. She made herself ready. Unlike her last battle with the Blue Devils, she was prepared to kill them.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

The Maker – Book Three is on sale for only .99 cents. Get yours now!

The Maker Returns!

The Maker front

It’s been a long time since I promised The Maker would return and I apologize. With one thing and another, it’s taken longer than I anticipated to get it reader ready.

I’m delighted to announce that it is now available for pre-order at Amazon!

The Lone Wolf series is especially near to my heart because the core three characters of Wil, Matilda and Marc are based (loosely) on three characters friends and I played in an old role playing game, Traveler. It’s sort of like Dungeons and Dragons, only in outer space. The character of Wil wasn’t initially part of the scenario, that was Matilda (also known as Romance) and Marc. Wil came in later and stirred things up.

Originally, I had intended to chronicle our actual game adventures but early on, things took a turn. Instead, Wil swept in, spirited Matilda away and Marc trailed after to cover their backs. I honestly had no intention of them rushing off to save the galaxy, but that’s what happened.

Am I unhappy about that? No, I’m delighted. I feel as if I have done my job as an author correctly if my characters take over and run rampant with my story. I’m not sure who spun things out of control first, but I’m sure it was probably Wil. Okay, I’m sure it was Wil’s fault. He’s a very strong character and decidedly had a mind of his own.

Wil’s motivation was simple: the bad guy needs to be stopped because he made me look foolish. Followed by: the bad guy needs to be stopped because he’s extremely dangerous and has the potential for causing a lot of trouble. Somewhat hedonistic and narcissistic by nature—did I say somewhat? I should have said completely. Completely hedonistic and extremely narcissistic, Wil couldn’t let the villain make him look incompetent. He as a reputation as a legendary badass to maintain. Though there is an element of altruism there, buried deeply under his ego, he probably wouldn’t have cared as much if his reputation wasn’t at stake.

Matilda, on the other hand, sees the big picture. If the bad guy is allowed to continue, everyone is in jeopardy. She cares about Wil’s reputation, but only minimally. Her concern is more what can happen to everyone else if they are unsuccessful.

Marc is there, initially, to protect Matilda and cover Wil’s back. He, like Matilda, is motivated by the greater good. He couldn’t care less about Wil’s reputation, but he counts on the other man’s skills to help save the day. Don’t think that Marc is any kind of a wimp. In his own way, he is as formidable as Wil. His mental games of What If often prove effective in finding a solution.

I had intended to make Lone Wolf a stand alone novel. However, I got to a point where I realized that I had so much story to tell, I needed to split it in two, or I’d have a book about 1,000 pages long. I ended Lone Wolf rather abruptly and picked up the action for Shakazhan immediately after the first one ended.

The Maker picks up after several months have passed. The small fighting force is settling in, doing their best to train themselves into some sort of army. Unfortunately, it becomes readily apparent that there are too few of them to hold out against a concerted attack.

Wil and the others decide that they must contact the people back home and request reinforcements. They also must attempt to make alliances with some of the planets’ residents. This quest is much harder than it first appears, because many of the natives don’t want to be friends.

The Maker is a pivotal book where I introduce several new characters who take key roles later in the series. One, in particular, takes off and becomes a major player in The Kahlea -Book 4. I have to admit, that she is a particular favorite of mine who gave me lots to explore.

I hope you enjoy The Maker, as well as the other books in the Lone Wolf Series: Lone Wolf and Shakazhan.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

A very special Thank You to Suzette Vaughn for the beautiful cover!

I Love Dialogue from Wall of Time, a Lone Wolf Prequel

lone wolf first four coversNeeding help with his increasingly bizarre and unique problem (having visions of his daughter, born over 300 years in his past) Wil goes to see his—well, friend is probably too strong a word—someone he doesn’t feel like killing (often). Abudali is a mystic who lives on a frozen world in a very posh cave (for a hermit). He agrees to help Wil, but after some consideration, Wil isn’t sure he’s ready for the type of help Abu has in mind.

Wil’s announcement that he was leaving fell on deaf ears. Abudali ignored what he said and smiled.

“I’m really going,” Wil told him. “I have things to do. I have a schedule to keep.”

“Of course you do. Go then, I won’t keep you.” Instead of arguing, Abu was giving him the brush off.

“Don’t you want me to? I thought for sure you’d try to make me stay.”

“How could an old, feeble man like me make a strong, virile man like you do something he doesn’t want? Go if that will make you happy. Don’t find out the answers to your burning questions. Go!” He shoved Wil toward the door, nearly knocking him back a step.

“All right, Abu. You win.”

“Excuse me? You wanted to go five seconds ago.”

“But maybe you’re right. I should stay and let you find out what they did to me.”

“Now he acts like he’s doing me a favor! You don’t have the dedication! One minute you’re leaving, the next you want to stay. Which is it?”

“May I stay, Abu?” Wil asked him, much subdued.

“Since you ask, then yes. But you have to agree to do what I tell you, even if you think it’s silly.”

“Agreed.”

“Good. We begin in an hour. Now is a time for eating.”

“You’re not going to feed me anything that gives me the shits for over two hours, are you?”

“No.”

“Or makes me puke, or anything like that?”

“Of course not. Whatever gave you that idea? Really, Wil, you’re entirely too paranoid.”

“I wonder,” Wil mumbled as he ate and drank sparingly.

Abu pressed another cup of tea on him. It wasn’t until a few minutes later that Wil realized it had been a bad idea to take the other cup of tea.

“What did you put in that?”

“I might have added a little Dimboloo Root.”

“What? Are you trying to kill me?”

Dimboloo Root was another highly toxic weed that had mind expanding capabilities. In the wrong dosage, it was lethal. Even his body would have trouble metabolizing it.

“You said you wouldn’t argue with me,” Abu told him as his ears wiggled and his nose exploded into purple flowers.

“I know what I said,” Wil struggled to stand. “But that was before my mouth went to sleep and my knees urinated pink frogs. What the hell is in that stuff? My fingers. Look at my fingers, Abu! They won’t work like this. How can I hold a guitar pick and strum the monkey?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Wil.”

Abu’s ears now looked like pontoons and his nose hair had grown at an alarming rate. It hung down to his armpits.

“You can’t strum the monkey, you have to pluck it.”

“Right.” Wil sat heavily, knowing something wasn’t right, but not sure what it was. “Why do my eyes feel like they’re melting into my kneecaps?”

“It’s the Dimboloo. You’ll be fine soon.”

“Make my pants stop burning, will you? I can’t seem to put it out.”

“Certainly, my son.” Abu patted Wil absently, spreading the flames instead of putting them out.

Wil wasn’t worried anymore because a flock of birds hovered over him with buckets. “That’s better. The ducks put it out. What are we doing?”

“Listen to me, Wil. I’m going to go into your mind now. You mustn’t fight me. The Dimboloo will help you relax. I don’t want you to fight me. Don’t attack unless I tell you to. But I’m going to give you a special code word. If I say the word barnacle you will attack whatever target I give you. If you don’t hear barnacle you will not attack. Is that clear?”

“Yes. You’ll say barnacle. Is that before or after I eat the ice cream?”

“Forget the ice cream.”

“Then how about the ducks.”

“Piss on the ducks. It puts the fire out.”

The conversation would have gone on like that awhile longer, but Wil felt as if someone had driven a steel spike in his hand. He knew how that felt, because someone had done that to him once. He didn’t like it much then either.

An old lady sat in a rocking chair wearing a brown dress and a tan shawl. She had really long ears and sharp teeth.

“Abu, if that’s your wife…. Whoa!”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Wil. I have no wife.”

“I do, don’t I?” Wil tried to put on a blue flowered hat, but it melted. “Is that her?” He shuddered. “I’ve got sick taste, man. She could be my grandmother.”

“Wil, focus! You’re letting your mind wander. Enough of that!”

He slapped Wil sharply across the cheek. Wil’s head snapped sharply back and his eyes crossed. When he refocused, he was able to get a grip on what he was seeing. No, the walls weren’t melting into puddles of cotton candy. A camel wasn’t passing through the eye of a needle and his fingernails were not sixty-two inches long. However, he did feel and see Abu walking slowly through his mind, exploring.

© 2016 Dellani Oakes

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Meet Cute from Wall of Time, A Lone Wolf Prequel

lone wolf frontMeet Cute is a theatrical term used most often in romantic comedies. It is the first meeting, sometimes contrived, of the two main characters.

The following is from The Wall of Time, which is a prequel to my sci-fi Lone Wolf Series. Although these two have met before, I like this meeting between Wil and Valkyrie. It gives us a feel for Wil’s character prior to meeting Matilda.

Once in the bar, Wil sidled up to the counter, ordered his drink and had a look around at the available women. There weren’t many. It was either too late or too early for a good selection and Wil was picky. Being a man who had always been able to selective, he chose carefully. He was strong and quick, but that was no reason why he should put himself in danger by taking the wrong woman to bed. He’d found out, with nearly fatal consequences, how foolish that was.

He had almost made up his mind to go try his luck with a brunette in the corner, when a tall, leggy blonde entered. She was beautiful in a dangerous, lethal way. She carried herself like a well seasoned warrior, though she didn’t appear to be any older than he himself. Her golden hair was secured by what looked like black and silver chopsticks, but his cyber eye revealed they were really sheathed stilettos.

A feral, lupine grimace twitched his full lips. It was what passed as a smile for a man known as the Lone Wolf. Most people were terrified when he smiled like that. The woman, who had just turned his way, caught his eye and gave an equally chilling smile of her own.

She swaggered over the where he stood. Dressed in bright red leather pants and bustier, she sported a long, black leather duster and high, metal heeled, cowboy boots. A powerful handgun rested on her left hip. A whip graced the other.

Wil’s smile grew broader when she came up to him, standing less than three inches away, her breasts brushing his chest, her hips a whisper from his. Reaching out one leather clad hand, she grabbed his crotch in a very friendly fashion. His right hand held his drink, but his left glided down her arm in a familiar caress, his cyber eye checking her hands and feet for weapons. He found plenty, smiling.

“Hello, Val, how are you?”

“I’m better now, Wil. Good to see you.” Her hand stayed on his crotch, rubbing absently.

“What brings you to these parts, Val? I thought you were working Vandaran space.”

She shrugged one shoulder casually. “Vandarans are so boring. A bunch of overzealous, religious mooses. Meese?” She rolled her eyes, not caring if she got the right word or not.

“I think plural and singular are the same, moose.”

“Oh, who gives a shit, Wil? Only you would even know something like that.” She took a sip of his drink, licking her lips seductively.

“Which is part of my charm, Val.” He nibbled her neck, his hand moving to her hip in a very proprietary way.

“This is your charm, baby.” She grabbed and kneaded at his pants. “Right here.”

“Is that an invitation, Valkyrie?”

“A command performance, Wilhelm. Where can we go?”

“I have a ship. Five blocks to the spaceport.”

“Too far,” she bit his lower lip, pulling it with her teeth. She put her right foot on the rail below the bar, leaning hard against him. “Right here, right now.”

“Val, you may be an exhibitionist, but I don’t do that.”

“Shy, lover?”

He chuckled softly. “Paranoid. I don’t want to be doing something fun and get shot in the back. Tends to spoil the romance.”

“Oh, true.” She pouted slightly.

“I’d hate to rob a nice girl like yourself of her orgasms.”

“Always so considerate. Compromise. A room at the mercenary hostel? That’s where I’m staying. It’s two blocks away.”

“Lead the way, sugar. I’m all yours.” He finished his drink, plunking the glass on the bar.

© 2016 Dellani Oakes

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He’s Back and Badder Than Ever!

Wil VanLipsig is back, did you miss him? New covers and a bit of spit and polish from the editor, he’s ready to face the galaxy once more! Please pop over to Amazon and bid him hello. Don’t sneak up on him, though, or it might end badly, because….

Lone Wolf if you see him coming

Book 1 Lone Wolf is available at Amazon now!

© 2016 Dellani Oakes

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Shakazhan: Book 2 in the Lone Wolf series, Shakazhan picks up where Lone Wolf ended. Things are in a right state, but this time Wil and Matilda have some new friends. With the help of the Kindred, they just might make it out of this mess alive. Available July 9, 2016 in reissue from Pennywise Press.

The Maker: Book 3 in the Lone Wolf series, The Maker takes readers inside the planet of Shakazhan, introducing new and amazing characters. Though reeling from an attack on the planet, Wil and Matilda lead a struggling, but scrappy army to victory. Reinforcements arrive from a very unexpected source. Available August 13, 2016 in reissue from Pennywise Press.

The Kahlea: Book 4 in the Lone Wolf series, The Kahlea introduces new races and exciting new characters. Realizing that their army isn’t strong enough to defeat the Kahlea alone, Wil decides to send a small exploratory party into Shakazhan with the intent of meeting the inhabitants and forming allies. Has he finally bitten off more than the can handle? This fascinating new book will be available in September from Pennywise Press.

Lone Wolf Returns!

Lone Wolf Returns Saturday, June 11, 2016

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Mining Guild Chairman, Emmelia Spenser, is a smart, well educated, attractive and formidable woman. She knows how to work a room to get what she wants. She’s not above a little subtle manipulation to make that happen.

Ssylvenia was always prompt. Emmelia looked up in relief. If there was one person on the board she could count on, it was Ssylvenia Louttice. They had been friends for many years. As she walked in the office, Ssylvenia was already chittering excitedly. Her translator couldn’t keep up. Emmelia did her best to calm her friend so she could get a cohesive story. What she finally learned didn’t make her happy. Apparently, the police had contacted the Marines despite assurances that it wasn’t necessary. A contingent was waiting in her outer office to address the Board. In a rare moment of self-recrimination, Chairman Spenser nearly pulled out her short, dark hair. Taking a deep breath, she released a loud, piercing, primal scream. Ssylvenia stood impassively, waiting for her friend to catch her breath.

“If you’ve quite finished,” she chittered. “The Marines are right outside. I feel sure that set their teeth on edge. I’m surprised they aren’t rushing in here, guns blazing!”

Emmelia patted her friend’s pinchers. “It’s all right, Sissy. The room is soundproofed. Show them in. I’m able to cope now.”

Holding herself as if she thought this was a terrible idea, Ssylvenia let the Marines in. The five men were resplendent in their blue and red dress uniforms. Chairman Spenser greeted them calmly, a genteel smile on her face. Not betraying her thoughts in her features, she mused, Where the hell to the Marines recruit from? I never saw such handsome, exquisitely put together men in all my life!

Sincere smile pasted on her lips, she held out her hand to the commanding officer as they were introduced. He took it in his, fingers lightly lingering on hers.

“How do you do, Chairman Spenser. I’m Captain Benjamin Drexel of the Hannibal.”

“Captain Drexel, how very nice to meet you, sir. How may I be of assistance?” Ooh, Captain Drexel, I hope you aren’t married!

Drexel was an older version of Wil VanLipsig. He was fortyish, tall, muscular, tanned, with close cropped, dark brown hair peppered with gray at the temples. His upper lip sported a full, and very luxuriant mustache. His eyes were nearly as black and piercing as VanLipsig’s. His nose looked as if it had been broken at least once, but it lent rather a nice touch to a face which would otherwise have been too handsome for his own good, or hers, for that matter.

“Please, won’t you all be seated?”

She gestured to the chairs in front of them. They waited for her to sit gracefully behind her massive oak desk. Drexel and the other officer sat. The rest stood in a semicircle behind them. Sissy hovered behind Emmelia, not sure what to do.

“Ssylvenia, please have a seat, dear. I’m sure Captain Drexel and his men won’t mind. Ssylvenia is a member of the board. Anything you wish to say may be said in front of her in strictest confidence.”

Emmelia sat languidly in her chair, for once glad of her prominent chest and deep cleavage. It seemed to be of interest to Captain Drexel and several of his men. She’d always dressed a bit daringly, if professionally. Today she wore a navy, pinstripe suit with a dangerously short, flared skirt. Instead of a blouse, she wore only a matching vest. It showed her ample bosom to great advantage. She leaned forward, enjoying the feeling of power she had over them.

“How may I be of assistance?” she repeated, drawing their attention back to her face. She fought the impulse to bat her eye lashes. It was too early for that ploy yet. Let them sweat a bit.

Drexel focused on her face with difficulty. He cleared his throat a few times, so Emmelia poured him a glass of water, carrying it around to him. Instead of sitting back down at her desk, she sat on the edge directly in front of him, crossing her legs, toes mere inches from his knee.

“I do hope this helps. Sometimes the air in this place gets a little dry.” Leaning forward just enough to give him a better peek, she handed him the glass.

His ears reddened slightly as he accepted it. Sipping politely, Drexel nearly choked on his water as the open toes of her backless pumps carelessly brushed his right knee. She smiled her sincere smile at Drexel again. To do the man credit, he didn’t drop his glass, but straightened his shoulders, sitting upright in his seat.

“Madame Chairman, there have been complaints to us from the Navigation Guild, as well as the planetary government. Frankly, they want to know just what the hell is going on here!”

Spenser giggled, something she hadn’t done in at least twenty years. “Captain Drexel, I assure you as I have the Nav Guild and the planetary government, we’re about to embark on a very dangerous mission in a few days. The area we intend to mine may have hostiles about. We don’t want our mining ship to be blown out of the sky with all those miners aboard! The warships are here to insure their safety.”

Drexel mulled that over a minute, his dark brows blending into one as he frowned. Pursing his lips, he reflected a moment longer before he spoke. “That explains the Guild ships, Madame Chairman. It doesn’t explain the presence of the mercenaries.”

“That was a decision made by Commandant John Riley. I’m afraid he got somewhat over zealous in his desire for tight security and safety for our mining teams. I’ve already rescinded his all-call and I’ve begun to send the mercenaries home. However, many of them don’t want to leave. May I prevail upon your troops to aid us in ridding this peaceful planet of their unruly presence? They’ve been somewhat disruptive, as I’m sure you’re aware.” She leaned toward Drexel in a conspiratorial manner, her mouth near his left ear, her breasts struggling against the silk of her vest. “I was about to call you myself, this situation is becoming quite hazardous. I do so hope you can help me?”

Raising pale blue eyes to his dark ones, she gave him a plaintive, helpless look. Emmelia settled back on the desk, legs crossed, leaning on her hands, chest well forward. Drexel’s ears were quite red and he stammered as he spoke. The open toes of her pumps were mere centimeters from his knee. Her skirt was more than halfway up her thigh, challenging him with its milky, smooth closeness.

“Yes, yes, Ma’am. I assure you that you can count on our assistance in this matter. I’ll order some of my troops down to see to it.” He rose somewhat awkwardly, hat in front of his muscular thighs, signaling to his men.

Chairman Spenser stood, leaning toward him again, nearly chest to chest. “Thank you ever so much, Captain Drexel. I just knew I could count on the Marines.” She pouted prettily, raising an eyebrow. “Why don’t you come back when you get off duty. We can continue this discussion privately.” Lifting her pale, blue eyes to his face imploringly, she allowed her eyelids to flutter briefly.

He nodded curtly, gulping, his throat suddenly constricted. His ears burned red and the flush rose above his collar. “I’d like that, Ma’am,” he choked.

She ran her finger along his shoulder, tapping a button on his shirt front. “Excellent. I look forward to our little chat. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a Board meeting in a few minutes. Thank you all so very much for your time.”

She held her hand out to Captain Drexel. He didn’t know whether to shake it or kiss it, so did neither. He held it for a moment, bowed briefly over her fingers, hesitantly letting go. As he strutted out the door, he spun around, snapped a sharp salute, clicking his heels together before his corporal shut the door with a snap. She waited for a count of ten before turning to Sissy.

“Well, what do you think?” She spun around with her arms flung out happily.

Sissy eyed her critically. The computer voice couldn’t effectively mimic her derisive tone. “That was the most disgusting display I’ve seen you make in years. I can’t imagine what you thought you were doing. I think Captain Drexel had better be very careful!”

Emmelia threw back her head, laughing unashamedly. “Oh, Sissy, you’re always letting me know how bad I am.” She exhaled slowly, gazing at the door as if she could see Drexel walk down the hall. “I hope to be very bad indeed.”

Turning toward the board room, she thrust back her shoulders, putting on her professional manner once more. “Time to work, Sissy. Let’s hope the Board charms as easily as Captain Drexel.”

Sissy clicked and chittered behind her. “I rather doubt the Board could handle that little performance. All of them would fall over dead from the excitement.”

Laughing happily, Emmelia walked into the board room. Sissy followed, her chittering indecipherable by the translator, but Emmelia knew her friend was laughing.

© 2016 Dellani Oakes

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Lone Wolf Is Coming Soon!

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Lone Wolf Returns June 11, 2016

After parting from the others, Wil and Matilda decided to walk around for awhile. She wanted to see the older, non-tourist area of town. They strolled casually down streets that grew progressively narrow and shabby. Wil put his arm protectively around her shoulders. As they wandered the seedier parts of town, they walked past a sign advertising: Lady Lena, Psychic Readings.

It had an arrow pointing down the street. In the next block, another sign. Learn your future! See Lady Lena to find out what the stars hold for you! There was another arrow. A third sign in the next block said: Does he love you? Ask Lady Lena!

Matilda eyed this last sign for a few moments. “Hm, that’s a very good question to ask Lady Lena. Maybe I should find her.”

Wil turned her toward him, her fingers entwined with his. “If you really have to ask someone, why not ask me?” He kissed her gently.

“Do you love me, Wil?”

“More than life, Romance.”

Walking a little further, a large sign stood in a front yard. In screaming orange, chartreuse and gold, it said: What does your future hold? Ask Lady Lena! No appointment necessary! Walk in and have a seat!

She tugged his hands. “Let’s go in and see her.” She pointed to a small Open sign in the window.

Wil held back cautiously, not from fear but courtesy. He knew how telepaths reacted to him and he didn’t want to hurt anyone. “Baby, if she is a real telepath—they don’t like me much.”

“Oh, how could she be? It’ll be fun. I’ve always wanted to have a psychic reading done. Come on!” She tugged his hand doggedly.

He reluctantly followed her to the porch of an old house on a back street. The door opened quietly inward, the hinges smooth and soundless. A dry, raspy voice emanated from a back room behind the faded curtain of cheap green beads. “You are expected, children. Come in and be quick!”

The room was Spartan with a single round table top sitting on crates. Three chairs surrounded it. The small room smelled of decay and mold. A timeworn ceiling fan moved the thick, moist air with very little effect. The beads jangled aside, moved by a gnarled, age spotted hand, more like a crustaceous claw than a human appendage. An old woman stepped through. The ancient, wrinkled face gazed up at them. Her clear, bright green eyes bored into theirs; steady, calm, unwavering. Wisps of thin, white hair were pushed back with another frail and trembling clawlike hand. She wore a faded black woolen dress; long sleeved, even in the oppressive heat. Around her tiny shoulders was a white knit shawl.

She smiled up at Wil, then turned to Matilda. “Welcome, my dears. Please sit.”

Wil remained standing. Matilda sat across from the old lady who hobbled to her seat. She was the tiniest woman Matilda had ever seen. Just over four feet tall, her body was frail and thin. Her gaze compelled Wil to sit reluctantly at Matilda’s side.

“Let me see your hands, child,” she said to Matilda.

Slowly, she raised her hands, holding them across the table. The old woman reached over gracefully, taking Matilda’s hands in hers. Like moths in the dark, her touch was light, fluttering. Lady Lena studied them, muttering to herself.

“These are good, strong hands. You’ve worked hard in your life, my dear.”

Lady Lena turned the palms up, tracing the lines with one delicate finger. A hiss escaped her lips. She took the other hand, tracing those lines too. She studied the palms a few moments longer, going over and over the lifeline with her nail. With a decisive nod, Lady Lena drew a dome shaped object from her lap. It could have been wood or metal, it was impossible to tell, for it was more ancient than she. The lid was dark and sleek, polished to a dull sheen, as if hundreds of hands had held it, caressing it tenderly for centuries. It was devoid of all ornamentation, with no visible seams.

Chanting, she closed her eyes, moving her hands over the box once, twice, three times. She pressed both hands on the sides of the domed container. Leaning across the table, she slid the box toward them.

“Place your right hands on the dome. If it opens, take what is offered.”

“And if it doesn’t open?” Wil asked.

The old woman’s eyes flashed brilliant green, a suppressed fire dwindled to almost nothing, throbbing in the iris. “If it doesn’t open, then I have wasted our time.” Lifting her chin, she gestured sharply to the box. “Touch it.”

They did as she told them. The dome felt warm, pulsating and sleek. Suddenly, the box flew open without a sound, startling Matilda, making her jump. Wil stiffened in his chair.

© 2016 Dellani Oakes

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