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The Outsiders of Xykesh

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In the center of Asher’s most treacherous waters lies the island nation of Xykesh. Hundreds of years ago, the tyrant Digax fled to it as a refuge after his defeat. Since then, his power has shrouded it in storms and wards which let few people in, and none out. Nearly the whole of the island is now his domain, and what is left is wilderness full of monsters. Though the Mad King himself is a distant figure, his Chosen rule with unquestioned power over their subjects. But their hold is not absolute. On the day Digax claimed Xykesh as his, a blind prophet foretold that an outsider from beyond the island’s shores would come, and they would end his reign. And so the King has dreaded their arrival ever since. Many outsiders have arrived on Xykesh, either by accident, or in search of the truth behind the mysteries and myths that have sprung up around the island. The populace has been long conditioned to distrust these new arrivals, but so far, none have proven to be the ones the prophet spoke of. At least, just maybe, until now.

Fantasy / Adventure
Elijah Menchaca
Age Rating:

The Girl in the Cage, Part 1

A trail of mud spattered footprints and puddles of water followed Valerie as she staggered into the saloon, finally out of the rain. The warmth of the fireplace stung her cold, wet skin and made her wince. She hated riding in the rain.

Her eyes swept the tavern as she took off her hat and emptied the brim of collected rainwater. There were a number of people here—half the village, if she had to guess. A few of the patrons hadn’t bothered to look over at her when she came in, but most had. And they were staring.

She wore mostly muted colors, a gray riding coat, black tricorn hat, and dark pants, letting her pale blonde hair and dull gray eyes get lost in her outfit. The single splash of color in her appearance was the bright amber brooch and ribbon she wore at her neck, and on her wrist, glinting in the lamplight, were the folded down metal arms and springs of a wrist-mounted crossbow.

Valerie ignored them all for now, and made her way to the closest open table. After tossing her coat and hat onto a hook, she sank into a chair, let out a sigh, and crumpled face first into the table top.

Almost immediately, the whispers and mutterings began.

“Where did she come from?”

“She’s a scav—she’s got to be.”

“Didn’t know they could be that young.”

“They’re always that young, you dultz.”

“Is she breathing?”

If she heard them, she didn’t give any indication. She simply sat, still sopping wet, with her face buried in her arms and a puddle forming under her chair.

With trepidation in every step, a waiter approached Valerie’s slumped over form, and cleared his throat.

“You alright there, miss?”

Valerie responded with a dull groan, not bothering to raise her head. It had been a long, drenched, freezing ride through the forest to this town. Every part of her body ached. Her head felt too heavy and her limbs felt too light. Her fingers and toes were numb.

She was here for a reason. But that could wait for a few minutes. She just needed a little rest. A few minutes. Or hours.

Or days.


Or seconds, apparently.

With another groan, Valerie sat up in her chair and brushed her damp hair out of her face. Between her dull eyes, pale skin, and flaxen hair, she almost looked like a ghost.

“What?” she asked. It came out a lot snappier than she meant to. She was even more tired than she thought.

“Is…is everything alright?” the server asked, his mouth suddenly dry.

Valerire gave one last groan, willing herself to exhale her exhaustion along with her breath. “Fine.”

“Do you…need something?”

“A hot drink. A towel.” She paused, trying to roll a kink in her neck. “And someone who can tell me about the monster that’s been attacking this place.”

The waiter’s eyebrows just about jumped off his forehead, and he immediately started looking around for someone to save him. When no one did, he cleared his throat again, and nodded. “Is cider fine?”

Valerie told him it was, and he quickly took his leave before she could remind him about the towel. She sighed again, as something in her gut told her she wasn’t going to be getting it, and something else in a deeper, more pessimistic part of her gut told her trying to dry off was going to be pointless anyway.

The pair of men in the next table over got brave enough to stop whispering and actually talk to her. The one closest to her, a short, portly fellow with a thick beard and hairy arms jerked his head in her direction to get her attention.

“Where are you from, girl?”

Valerie cocked her head, considering the man for a moment. “East of here.”



“The city then.”

“Little further than that.”

If the man knew of any other place to the east besides Brightree and the city of Lochmire, he didn’t bother guessing them. He might have correctly guessed Valerie wasn’t actually going to give him an actual name and given up.

“I’ve never met a scav before,” the man said.

“Who said I was one?”

“You’re wearing that,” he said, pointing at her wristbow. “And you’re asking about monsters.”

“I’m not a scav.”

Freelancer. Scavenger. Same kind of person, just a different name for different levels of respect. They were the itinerant trouble makers who made a career poking around in ruins and war camps and monster nests, trying to find a profit and more often than not finding their deaths.

“Then why are you asking about a monster?”

Valerie paused to allow the waiter to come back with her cider and, as expected, no towel. She wrapped her hands around the tankard, trying to get a bit of feeling in her hands. She took several, deep swallows, letting the drink send warmth radiating down through her body. She let herself get lost in the sensation for just a moment, savoring it as long as she could. But in time, it passed, and she was left just as damp and cold as she had been before.

Nothing good lasts forever.

“I’m here to kill it,” she said.

“Well, you’re a bit late then,” the man said. “We already caught it.”

Now it was Valerie’s turn to give a look of disbelief. “You caught it?”

“Well, not me. Some of the other folks around here. But I saw them bring it in. Two nights ago, kicking and screaming on the end of every rope in town.”

Valerie felt oddly undercut. Five days hard ride, on her own, through the rain, and the monster she’d come here to kill was already taken care of. She couldn’t believe it. Literally, she could not accept it. The rumors that had led her to this town talked about a monster that tore livestock in half, that ripped the doors off of homes, and that had shrugged off every attempt to kill it. Fighting something like that, let alone capturing it, took a lot more than rope. It took very specialized tools, training, and knowhow, none of which she could see anywhere in this bar.

This man was lying, or confused. He had to be. Because if he wasn’t, she was quitting her current life right now and becoming a waitress.

“What did you do with it?” she asked.

“It’s still locked up in the jail.”

“Why not just kill it?”

The man looked suddenly uncomfortable with the subject, glancing off to the side. “Well, it’s. . . it’s different than some people were expecting.”

Valerie pushed herself out of her chair, and downed the last of her cider before wiping her mouth and placing her hat back on her head. She’d been right. She wasn’t staying dry for long.

“Show me.”

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tbedford1971: Very good read

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srishti : Love love love this!The pacing is good, the arguments are logical and the characters are realistic. Loved it very much so

puneetar28: Good book. Thanks authour for sharing your hard work with us. God bless you💕💕💕💕

Jennie: Love the plot development and how the story turned out 🥰🥰🥰great read

nanacinda58: It was very well written. Story kept your interest up. Strong woman character.

Lisa: I really like the story and characters.

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Alicia: I like the book but it skips so far ahead at the end like. Where's the pregnancy, the birth, and everything

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