Word of the week: pragmatic \prag-ˈma-tik\ - adjective – (hear it!) - : relating to matters of fact or practical affairs often to the exclusion of intellectual or artistic matters : practical as opposed to idealistic – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Strange Discoveries and Mystic Revelations

Aha! Welcome back.

When we last left our piranha-in-a-tutu, the first female sole heir to the Northland dominion, had unearthed something very disturbing in the eastern woodlands. . . .

Our blurb thus far? : A forbidden tryst exposes a threat and sets a secret plan in motion, and twenty-year-old Marisa of Mynae discovers her life is all a lie.

Now, a mysterious rule-breaking, semi-miscreant leads her to a grove secreted away within a dense crush of southern forestland . . . “But even as a cryptic journal reveals her true purpose, . . .”

* * *
Second of four excerpts from The Perfect Player, copyright 2013 - Kimberly Grenfell, writing as Devon Winterson. (And yes, I do mean copyrighted, not some faux label to ward off plagiarists.) 

“Look! What’s this?”

Ariana’s excited voice drew her attention. Marisa pocketed the vessel, then crouched beside her. Beneath the lowest shelf, as though hiding to be found, peeked the corner of something flat and black.

“A book?” she said.

“Pull it out and see.”

Marisa did. Indeed, it was a book. One the size of her own journal tucked inside her writing desk drawer. But instead of a firm and finely crafted blank cover, this book’s cover was pitted and worn, and it sagged beneath a centered embellishment — a muted iridescent eye. A curve of etchings along its top lid pulsated with a luminosity that evaded the sight, like distant stars that vanished when viewed directly.

“Strange,” Ariana whispered. “Orenda never kept a journal.” She paused, then snorted. “Or so it’s been said.”

Marisa lifted the cover. It crackled against the spine. Inside, the paper was dull, creased, edges tattered, and they smelled peculiar — a sweetness that was blithesome, light, and refreshing. Much how she imagined the scent of aged elixir.

“Do you think it could be hers?” Ariana said.

“Who else would it belong to, if this really is her grove?” Marisa replied, and her friend motioned to the pages.

“What does it say? Can you read it?”

Marisa squinted at the interconnection of golden lines that billowed and flowed into softly rounded shapes and symbols, like clouds against the canvas of a calm sky. Fascinating and beautiful, yet —

She closed the book. “It’s no language I’ve ever seen.”

“Well” — Ariana sat back on folded knees — “people do claim Orenda spoke the language of the angels. Maybe that’s it.”

“Right, and maybe the Maker’s Eye actually existed. Ariana, people claim a lot of things about her, which makes you wonder just how much of it’s the truth.”

“Does it?”

“Of course it does! I mean, come on, honestly — a woman with powers beyond our understanding?”

Ariana grinned.

“One who’d come and go at will, change the course of events wherever she went?”

Ariana’s grin broadened.

“The first inhabitant of our world?”

Ariana beamed.

“Oh, please,” Marisa said. “The first? Think about it. That’s not natural, especially if my father knew her. Just how old would she have been, had she been alive when our world began? And besides,” she added, “she’s dead.”


“So claims of her agelessness are absurd. The eternal don’t die.”

“How very pragmatic of you.”

“Pragmatic?” Marisa tossed her a queer glance. “Are you feeling all right?”

“Never better.” Ariana grinned again. Marisa scrutinized her, eyes narrowed, but when her friend’s expression didn’t change, she brushed her fingertips absentmindedly over the embellishment and its etchings.

“I don’t know. . . . Tales about her make no sense. She makes no sense.”

“Sounds like you’re denying who she was.”

“I don’t know who she was.”

“Well, what about all of this?” Ariana gestured around to the hut and the glade. “And what about that?” Eyes wide, she pointed to Marisa’s hands, where the journal, now glowing blue, trembled and hissed.

With a gasp, Marisa stumbled up, dropping the book to the ground. Dust puffed around the cover as the etchings began to crackle and sinuate like living silver strings, re-forming themselves. The haze slowly settled, and Marisa leaned forward to silently read the first line of the newly arranged words:

Star of the Heavens

. . . the very title her father had christened her with at birth — secretly. If no one else knew, how in the name of the Maker was it written here?

Ariana squeaked. “Did you just see that? Can you read it now, Marisa? What does it say? What does it say!” But Marisa didn’t answer. A notion had come alive in her mind.

If the etchings on the cover could transform into something legible, would the entire book do it? What was in there? Could it help find a better solution to Mynae’s problem? Daft to overlook any possibility, especially one so specifically addressed. Observe and learn — Father’s words. And now she even had a chance to make up for being dishonest with him. Besides, what would a dead woman need with a journal, anyway? She wouldn’t even know she’d taken it. Conviction firm, Marisa snatched the book up.

“Come. I must tell my father.”

Up the trail and away from the border, away from the slab of rock and the demon tracks, and away from the hidden glade she raced, bounding toward the base of the adjoining hills, where she leapt over the stream and hastened up the meadow.

She pounded at the city gates. They cracked open to reveal Kahlil’s startled face.

“Marisa! Where have you been? The master said you’d gone missing! He’s got the whole — ” An outcry from the citizens drowned out his words as Marisa shouldered past him to race toward the Center, dodging people like trees as she went. Weave the boles . . . weave the boles. . . .

Inside the manor house, Marisa scurried to her bedchambers where she slammed the door shut and threw herself back against it. Breaths heaved. Heart thudded. With all of the commotion she’d caused, Abigale and Father would be on her in a trice. She had to hide the journal — fast. Where? Bed? Desk? Wardrobe?

Yes. Wardrobe. Her knapsack lay empty.

Marisa lunged forth, yanked open one of the wardrobe doors, and dug out her sack. She crammed the book in, then flung the vessel from her pocket inside with it. With a careless toss, the bag landed sideways on the floor. She kicked the door shut just as Abigale stormed in.

“Where in the name of the Maker have you been! You know how dangerous the woodland is right now!”

Marisa spun around — right into her father’s arms.

“Oh, Love!” He crushed her close. “Where had you gone? I have most of the regiment out searching for you.” His grip trembled. With her ear pressed to his chest, Marisa heard his frantic heartbeat.

“I saw someone,” she said, “out in the woods. I don’t know how they’d breached security, but I couldn’t let whoever it was roam the forests. Not with what’s out there.” Marisa eased herself back . . . then cringed at the unwitting mixture of relief and pride that had softened Father’s face. Her explanation wasn’t a lie — it wasn’t! Not all of it, anyway. “I wanted to call out to you,” she said, “but you’d walked on with the commander, and I couldn’t remain idle, Father. I had to do something.”

“Well!” Abigale sniffed. “You should have left whoever it was out there, I say. It would have served him right for ignoring his master’s decree.”

Marisa glared.

“Now wait, Abigale.” Donovan held up a hand. “Marisa did as any leader would. A citizen was in danger.”

“By his own doing, Donovan. She could have been killed!”

“Every person matters,” he said, “and no one gets left behind. But, Love” — he grabbed Marisa’s shoulders, expression now stern — “leaders must think before they act. Rash decisions have a way of ending poorly.”

“Yes, Father. I’m sorry.”

“As well you should be,” Abigale said, “worrying the master the way you have.”

“Enough,” said Donovan.

“ . . . running off, and placing your bloodline in danger — ”

“I said that’s enough, Abigale!” The keeper stiffened, but fell silent at the leader’s command. “Dismissed,” he said. “Tell Harlan to call off the search.” And as Abigale lifted her chin high, brow creased, lips tight, they locked stares — keeper and leader — in a battle of wills. A smirk tugged the corner of Marisa’s mouth. How alike they were: strong and rational. Stubborn. Together they would have made a solid sovereign head.

Abigale yielded. She broke the deadlock with a curt nod. “As you wish,” she said, then departed with a stilted gait in a hasty rustle of skirts. Marisa sunk into the warmth of her father’s arms.

“I’m sorry,” she said again.

“You shouldn’t have gone out alone, Marisa. Something could have happened. There’s still a demon out there, understand.”

“But they can’t see without light.”

“Night-blindness doesn’t mean they can’t, or won’t, follow a scent through the darkness. A hampered attack, yes, but they could still find you. We have to be careful, diligent, even after our borders have been secured for some time.” Father rubbed her back, caressed her curls, and Marisa closed her eyes, comforted. Why her mother always pulled away from his touch as though she’d been burnt was beyond her; his manner was naught but gentle, calm, soothing.

“Get some rest,” he whispered at length. “You have much to do in the days ahead.” And he pulled away to lay a kiss upon her cheek. With a final glance behind, he left.

Marisa padded to the door and rested her ear against it. After his steps had receded down the hall and a long, silent moment had passed, she strode to her wardrobe. She drew the journal from the sack, gingerly placed it onto the bed, cover-side up, and took a step back. Then she read the still un-ciphered script aloud by lantern light: “Star of the Heavens. Enter upon and embrace your true life.”

As soon as she had she uttered the words, the journal quivered, swelled, and sighed as though taking its first breath. Marisa startled and stumbled back as the cover, pulsing and glowing blue, sprung open. A page flipped. No longer did the paper crackle; it was newer, fresher, creases smoothed and tatters gone. Lines and symbols flowed into something readable:

You have spoken your title, set forth your true purpose.
Now, heed secrets revealed for what lies ahead
to secure our world’s unstable future.
You hold my memories. Another, my possession.
Two lives, separate yet bound by one, must unite.
Accept this, and your fate will resolve.
Refuse, and your beloveds will die.
Your true life is more than you’ve perceived it to be.

. . . and then it was gone. Words shifted, quickly re-ciphering, concealing themselves as though hiding a naked form, fearing discovery. Creases spread across the page like cracks along parched ground. Tatters returned, paper yellowed, and pulsating ceased.

The journal fell still.

Marisa shrank back, frightened and suddenly repulsed by the writing’s implications.

* * *
(Events Unforeseen – Monday, October 7th – a mysterious trail of cloven hoofprints . . . )


  1. Good passage, Kimberly!

    Strange... I saw the name Orenda, and it put me back years ago. My first job was on a street with that name.

    1. Wow, really?? Weird. You know, I'm sure there are other streets out there like that, with a name like that, still . . . that's unusual enough, methinks. Lol.

      Thanks for stopping by and reading, William!

  2. Really enjoyed this! I'm not a fantasy reader, usually, and I'm super stoked to get this book! Your writing is so tight and straightforward and...well, entertaining. Your characters here are bouncing off the screen and into my head with their dialogue. Awesomeness!

    1. Thank you, Holly, for the wonderful compliment. :D Eee. I am getting a bit excited about the release of this book, in spite of myself (trying to remain calm . . . trying to remain calm . . .). It's been a decade long-coming now. We'll see how things go. . . . (Ha! Had to delete my prior comment. Can't spell for beans when I'm half-tired! Lol!)