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Lindsey Duncan

Lindsey Duncan, Author of Taming the Weald LINDSEY DUNCAN is a life-long writer and professional Celtic harp performer, with short fiction and poetry in numerous speculative fiction publications. She feels that music and language are inextricably linked. She lives, performs and teaches harp in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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Taming the Weald by Lindsey Duncan Xmas Wishes by Lindsey Duncan

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Taming the Weald by Lindsey Duncan Timid Keryn wants nothing more than to be a mother. Within the Wealdthe last bastion of nature on the space station that serves as her homeshe encounters Verdant, a daughter of that forest who has somehow survived without parents or community. Keryn tries to prepare the girl for life in the station, but Verdant has strengths and secrets of her own.

Word Count: 8450
Buy at: Smashwords (all formats) ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Amazon
Price: $ .99 
   From Aubrie Dionne on Amazon

Xmas Wishes by Lindsey Duncan As Christmas approaches, Irena Maddox faces typical teenaged problems: her mother is half the world away, the boy of her dreams doesn’t know she exists, and it doesn’t even have the decency to snow. Then she meets her eccentric new neighbor, Moira, and everything seems to change. But is there something more to her run of good luck... and to Moira?

Word Count: 7445
Buy at: Smashwords (all formats) ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Amazon
Price: $ .99


Taming the Weald

Keryn pressed her back against the wall under the ventilation pipe and tried to make herself smaller as the three gossips wandered up the space sta-tion corridor. Common sense—even the fringes of the Weald were dangerous—warred with the hot flush of embarrassment working up from her stomach.

“... third time she has requested a child.” The voice belonged to Nila, a cloth-constructor.


“Of course. The matchers have no time for her.”

“And she still wants to try?”

Of course she did. Keryn didn’t mind if it was a boy or girl, from her genetic stock or not—who would want big feet, a flat face, and coarse, almost colorless hair?—she simply wanted a child.

Hearing Nila’s derisive laughter, Keryn pushed off the wall and rounded the corner. An ominous spectre of green swept out before her. Sneaking tendrils of grasses and flowers gave way to crouching shrubbery and then the trees: dark, deadly giants whose leaves cast shadows more treacherous and uncertain than the comforting black of space.

The fence was perfunctory. Station denizens knew better than to enter the Weald. She scrambled over, hearing the weird crunch of grass under her feet. The smell was acrid, unpleasant. The ground seemed to wobble underfoot, con-stantly out of sync with what she expected. She was thankful she didn’t have far to go to take cover behind a bush.

Keryn pulled her arms in, protecting herself from the leaves. She knew the greenery was poisonous to eat, not whether it was harmful to touch, but why take chances? If nothing else, it might cause a rash. She felt a surge of wistful-ness. These were wisdoms a mother passed on. Safety, care—not attributes she displayed now.

The gossips meandered into view. “I heard the matchers told her that her work quality needed to be higher,” Nila said, “but she won’t—or can’t—improve it.”

Keryn flushed, pressing against the unsanitary dirt before she remembered herself. She was dedicated to her work with food-synth machines. Nothing broke down on her watch—ever. That was more than many operators could say.

As the gossips moved on, she became aware the Weald was not silent, as she had originally assumed. The noise was not the familiar thrumming of the pipes, but a crackling, rustling, the whistle of air movement. Could there be creatures living here? Surely the station leaders would have plundered the Weald had there been any evidence of uncontrolled organic life.

Then she heard it: a cry of pain.

Keryn leapt up, flashing a look towards the gossips, but they were too far away. The voice sounded young and fearful, and that was enough to impel her over a log and into the inky-green shadows.

The Weald resisted her: branches reaching for her face, the ground swerving away from her feet. She stumbled, drawn on by the voice even as the rest of her panicked.

She broke through the trees into an open patch. Two massive thorn bushes twined together as if fighting, and twisted up in their martial embrace was a girl.

At first, it was hard to tell where foliage ended and girl began. Leaves and vines clothed her form, woven as neatly as Nila’s work, and her skin betrayed a faint green flush, as if lit from within. She couldn’t have been older than ten or eleven, and Keryn felt a surge of protectiveness before questions set in: who was she? How had she gotten here? It couldn’t be recent, not with the clothes and the way her body seemed to harmonize with her surroundings.

The girl twisted, whimpering. As she did, Keryn noticed a spindly branch had pushed its way into her calf, blood flowing.

“I’m going to help you,” Keryn said, approaching with her hands spread. “You need to stop struggling.”

The girl started, head snapping up. Her body went still, quivering with nerves. Dark, animal eyes watched Keryn as she knelt down, unwinding branches and pulling other thorns free. Keryn winced when a branch snapped back and stabbed her. Poison! She pushed down the panic.

“You’ll be fine,” she continued in what she hoped was a soothing tone. “Just a few scratches. Give me a moment and you’ll be free, I promise.”

The girl regarded her, the puff of her breath slowing. She still didn’t speak—could she speak?

Keryn soon untangled the leg except for the embedded branch. She gazed up at the sweet, smooth face and swallowed.

“I need to pull this out,” she said. “It will hurt. Trust me?”

Those deep feral eyes widened. The girl nodded.

She understands me, Keryn thought. I hope. She braced her hand on the branch and pulled.

The girl shrieked. The sharpened end slid out, slick with blood. Keryn sank back, hands shaking. She daubed the blood away with her sleeve.

“It’s all right,” she said. “It’s out.” Her heart smacked against the inside of her chest. “What’s your name?” She didn’t expect an answer.

“Verdant.” The girl’s voice was clear, unwavering. “Thank you for helping me.”

“We’re not done,” Keryn said, “I need to free your arms.”

Verdant shook her head. “Now that it’s not hurting as much, I can think,” she said. “I can do—this.”

Back to Taming the Weald

Xmas Wishes

Irena Maddox slowed as she passed her neighbor’s garage, trying to catch a glimpse of the contents of the new woman’s life. Since the end of summer, the newcomer had lived in isolation behind the metaphorical moat of her property line. The welcoming committee tried three times to bring her into the community and finally settled for leaving a fruit basket on the doorstep. Bravely, Irena had stolen a kiwi. No one ever missed kiwi.

She felt that same defiance as she peered into the garage. There was no room for a car. Moira Alban didn’t seem to own one, and in fact, Irena had never seen her en route to anywhere. Uneven stacks of boxes filled the shadows. She squinted, hardly noticing she had halted and could no longer use the excuse she was wandering by.

The boxes were labeled, Xmas Decorations—Fragile, and similar phrases. Irena knew some people wouldn’t write the word Christmas out: something to do with the first half being irreverent or not. Her mother would know, but she was never around to pack boxes. Irena wasn’t sure what was worse: her mother’s long absences, or how little she knew about what happened during them.

So the boxes were ordinary. The only thing they told her was Moira put up Christmas decorations—and Irena wasn’t sure there was anyone who didn’t, whether they celebrated or not—and she was the kind of person who didn’t spell the word out, whatever that meant. Maybe she was lazy. Maybe the reason no one knew anything about her was there wasn’t anything interesting to know.

The winter cold impelled her to decision. Instead of scampering onward to her house, to a superstitious grandmother and another holiday that wasn’t, she scuffed up the driveway, moving as subtly as one could while wearing a bright red jacket and towering like a scarecrow. Probably all the boxes were sealed, but if one was already open, or if maybe it had only a little bit of tape...

Her fingers scrabbled at a cardboard flap, pulled it free. The box was full of snow globes; the tap she had given the box caused endless blizzards within. She scooped one out. Instead of the expected scene inside—a cute snowman or a foreign landmark—there was a little cornhusk doll...

“What are you doing?”

Irena yelped and dropped the globe. It pinged off the concrete. She whirled to face her accuser, a flush burning her cheeks.

Moira Alban towered, somewhere in the infinite expanse of middle age, with auburn hair and eyes the color of storms. “Well, if it isn’t the girl who stole the kiwi,” she continued.

“I did not,” Irena said by reflex, and then bent for the snow-globe. “I was just curious...”

She hadn’t seen the globe roll, but Moira picked it up from her feet and cradled it like something precious. “Do you understand the hazards of curiosity?”

In the chill and shadow of the garage, the words seemed menacing. Irena drew back, heart pounding with a rabbit’s fear... even though she could easily have dodged past, even though hers was the next driveway over and kids shouted in the yard across the street.

“Killed the cat,” Irena said bluntly, and wished she hadn’t. Her skin prickled, even as her mind shouted at her it was ridiculous. Neighbors didn’t attack each other for picking through boxes, and the garage door had been open. Surely that was an invitation. And besides, how would Moira hurt her?

Moira laughed, a rich sound. The menace evaporated. “Not the most original answer, but it will do. Since you’ve meddled with my boxes, you can help me carry them inside. Come, child.”

Though Irena bristled at the label, her relief, silly as it was, kept her from protesting. She picked up the nearest box and followed Moira inside. The coolness of the house surprised her, though still a relief from the Midwest bluster.

The house was spartan, furnished in white with few distinguishing marks—no hanging pictures, no mirrors, no knick-knacks. The other thing missing was peculiar in itself: no television, no computer, no electronics. The phone even had an old-fashioned cord. Up until then, Irena had thought they no longer made phones like that.

Moira directed her to the foot of a massive fir tree. After the fourth trip, she seemed satisfied. “Take off your coat,” she said, “and I’ll make you hot chocolate.”

Poof: you’re hot chocolate, Irena muttered. “Thanks,” she said aloud with a wary smile, not sure her intrusion had been forgiven, but it wasn’t like the woman would poison her just for peeking in some boxes. Especially not after she had carried them in. She eeled out of the coat, but had trouble with the sleeves. They ended up tucked inside themselves.

Moira started a kettle of water. “Tell me about yourself,” she invited. “What school do you attend?”

Irena wanted to retort she was more interested in finding out about Moira, but answered that question and those following politely, even as she scanned the room for personal touches. She came up blank. Christmas decorations would do the house good.

“What about your family?”

“Grandparents. Mom sometimes,” Irena said. “My grandfather’s a retired something-or-other.” Military, she always assumed. He occasionally referred to the war, but never answered questions. She wished he spoke more; at least enough to put a stop to her grandmother’s superstitious quirks, like hanging a horseshoe over the door and throwing salt over her shoulder. Who did that these days? Besides that, guess who had to sweep up the salt.

“So your mother’s away?”

It was not Irena’s favorite subject. “Yeah. Work.”

Moira arched an eyebrow. “Even on holidays?”

“Sometimes,” Irena said. “Christmases, even.”

Had it been her imagination, or had Moira shuddered? Certainly she drew back, but that was only to remove the kettle from the heat. “And this year?”

“Could be.” Irena cast about the kitchen, looking for a conversation point. It was like finding a toy boat on the ocean. “So, uh, what do you do?”

“Whatever comes my way,” Moira said. “Primarily, I help people with long-term plans.”

Irena frowned, trying to figure out what Moira’s answer meant. “So like—investments or something?”

“Something,” Moira agreed.
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