Thursday, May 25, 2017

Flash Fiction - Cheerleaders vs. Dragons

Wow, not only has it been nearly three full years since I put anything here.  I didn't even realize it was gonna be dragons twice in a row.  I don't really have anything else to add, just that this is another fiction prompt from over on Terribleminds, to pick two options and have them fight.  Granted the Cheerleader vs. Dragon happens off-screen, but I had fun playing with this.


The hallway fell silent as the last of the ogres collapsed to the floor.
Jason lowered his sword, the ogre’s protective football gear having done little to protect them from his blows.  Sheathing the blade he felt the balance of the weapon shifting.
‘I’ll have to take it to Metal Shop soon for repairs,’ Jason thought.
Heading down the hall he picked his way past debris, backpacks and books mixed with building rubble.  A locker hung open, the door listing lazily on one hinge, a faded poster of a boy band still clung to the inside, the lipstick kiss faded to a muddy brown.
Out of the gloom an intersection loomed and Jason paused his journey.
To the left lay the Chem lab, the goblins within mixing a fresh batch of acid if the smell was any indication.  To the right was the A/V lounge, the illusionists within able to ensnare those with a weak mind.
Moving slowly, Jason crouched low and slipped through the crossway as stealthily as he could manage, careful to keep his armor, courtesy of the Drama Club, from rattling.
Getting through the pass he let out a sigh and straighten up, resuming his trek.
Until a crunch under his foot caused the hallway to fill with noise.
Jason looked down and saw the remains of an iphone under his boot, the cracked screen flickering but doing nothing to lower the volume.
A crash from the intersection was all the motivation Jason needed to bolt down the hall.
‘God damn classic rock!’ He cursed.
Charging ahead, heedless of direction Jason focused on keeping distance between himself and the goblins and wizards pursuing him.
He ignored the classrooms, in this part of the building they were too much of a risk.  Rounding a corner, he took a chance and ducked into a closet, quickly closing the door and ducking down out of sight.
Jason heard the horde thunder past, he waited a few minutes longer before relaxing.  Letting out the breath he’d been holding he took a look around his shelter.
It was a janitor’s closet.
And a well-stocked one at that.  Cartons of supplies, jugs of cleaners lined the shelves.  The mop still had a functional head and there was not a speck of dust in sight.
There was only one place in the building he could be.
The Prince preferred his office to be kept completely spotless after all.
Peeking out into the hall Jason did not see any adversaries in either direction.
Slipping back out of the closet he made his way down the hall, away from where the horde had run.
He was nearing his goal, after all these months, nothing was going to stop him now.
Ahead, the hall opened out into a foyer.
Jason crept as close as he dared to the gap and took a look.
At the far end, he could make out the door to the Prince’s office, shattered wood still clung to the frame.
And filling the open space, patrolling the foyer, was the Jani-troll.
Knuckles scraping the floor, the troll lumbered back and forth as much as the limited space allowed.  Dragging a broken broom in one hand and a crushed bottle of cleaner in the other, he occasionally reached up and fumbled with the clasps of his overalls, only for them to fall loose again.
‘No way I can fight him,’ Jason thought.
Looking around the hall for something, anything, that might help, he spied an open locker.  Carefully sneaking over to it he peeked inside.
And found a skateboard.
Jason pulled it out and examined his find.  One of the wheels was wobbly and the paint had long since faded, but it was more than enough for what he needed.
Waiting until the troll turned his back, Jason rushed out into the foyer.  Charging straight at the door to the Prince’s office..
The troll turned at the sound and spotting Jason, raised his club and slammed down at him.
Jason waited until the last possible moment before throwing himself forward onto the skateboard, riding it with his body just above the ground he sped between the troll’s legs and launched himself into the office.
Rolling to his feet Jason drew his sword and called out.
“Prince!” he shouted, “Release her!”
“I’m fine dude, chill.” Tiffany said.
Dumbfounded, Jason took in the sight before him.
Prince lay dead on the floor, the corpse of the massive dragon taking up nearly all the space in the office.  Once pom-pom jammed up it’s nose, the other buried deep in it’s eye.
Tiffany lounged contentedly in the ridges of the beast’s head, not a fold of her cheerleading uniform out of place, calmly filing her nails with a discarded dragon scale.
“Tiffany?” Jason stammered, “You… You killed a dragon?”
She glanced up at Jason before going back to her nails, switching to her other hand.

“What?  Like it’s hard?”

Friday, July 4, 2014

Parentis Draconis

As I was still in a bit of a fantasy mood, I decided to take the challenge about 'Bad Parents' in kind of a fun direction.  Actually my first thought was of a wizard and a succubus, but as I was roughing that out I came up with this instead, and I think this idea works better anyway.

Not much else to say on this one, I think the flow might be a little rough for some of the descriptions, but I couldn't come up with another way of saying it that I liked.  So here it is.

Parentis Draconis
            Lord Renos the Malefic stepped back to admire his work.
            The circle of power all but glowed in the light of the moon, the symbols carved into the earth in front of the mountain.  The mouth of the cavern loomed before him, leading deep into the rock.  In the center of the circle was the virgin sacrifice, slumped against the ropes that bound her tightly to a sturdy post.
            Renos brushed the grime from his robes and lit the torches set around the circle.
            “Unn Koh Eeay Rah,” he chanted.  “Unn Koh Eeay Rah.  Come forward dragon, Beast of Chaos and Pain.”
            Within moments a red glow rose from the depths of the cavern, and a massive gout of flame roared out of the mouth of the cave and into the night sky.
            The head of the great dragon followed, smoke trailing from its nostrils as its horns scraped sparks off the roof of the cave.  Coming forward enough that its shoulders cleared the cavern entrance the beast sat and lowered its head to observe Renos with one massive eye.
            “Really Reginald, are the theatrics necessary?”  She asked.  “This is why you only get custody of Tara every other weekend.”
            “My name is Lord Renos the Malefic,” Reginald huffed.  “I don’t see why that’s so difficult for you to remember, Catryn.”
            “Of course dear,” Catryn said as she ignored him, sweeping her head around to examine the ‘sacrifice’.
            Sniffing she nudged the girl with her beak, “Did you drug her again?”  She asked incredulously, glaring at Reginald.
            He crossed him arms and turned away, “She was being uncooperative, she gets that from you, you know.”
            A hot gust of wind blew his cloak around him.
            “Haven’t I told you,” Catryn’s voice loomed like smoke behind him, “Don’t turn your back on an angry dragon.”
            “Oh my God!” a groan came from the circle.  “Will you two please quit it?”
            Both man and dragon turned to the sound to see Tara struggling against the ropes that held her.
            “Dad!  Stop tying me up, it’s creepy.”  She cursed, shaking dark hair from her face, “And mom, either eat him or roast him, I don’t care which, but stop goading him!”
            “Oh dear,” Catryn raised a claw, “let me help you out of those ropes.”
            “You’ll do no such thing foul beast!” A voice boomed across the valley.
            The family turned to see the source of the shout, and bore witness to a fully-equipped rider bearing down on them.  Lance held high his gleaming plate mail reflected the moonlight and made him stand out in sharp contrast to the shadowed valley.
            “Oh god, not this again.” Tara muttered.
            The rider lowered his lance and charged at both Reginald and Catryn, as much as one can charge a fully grown dragon, both of whom lazily moved out of his path.
            “Ha ha!  Too right!”  The knight cheered as he rode up to Tara, “A moment, fair lady.  I shall set you free so we may ride into the sunset together.”
            “It’s midnight, asshat.”  Tara spat.  “Now go away.”
            The knight seemed taken aback and lifted his visor as his horse pawed nervously at the ground, clearly not enjoying being so near a dragon large enough to eat it whole.
            “But…My Lady,” the knight said, “I’ve come to aid you in your time of need.”
            “What I need,” Tara hissed, “is for helmet brained imbeciles like you to piss off!”
            With her exclamation Tara roared out a blast of fire which, while not nearly as sizable as her mother’s, was more than enough to startle the horse into bucking its rider into the dirt.
            The knight fought to his feet as his horse galloped away, dragging his lance with it.  Undeterred he drew his sword.
            “Clearly this foul sorcerer has cursed you with the essence of his beast.  Fear not, for I shall set you free.”
            Even as he readied his sword to cut the ropes Tara breathed out another stream of flame, burning away the ropes as she directed the fire at the ground beneath the man’s feet.
            As the knight hopped from foot to foot Tara stepped out of the ash and glared at the man, smoke still leaking out from between her teeth in thick wisps.
            “Per- Perhaps I should go retrieve my horse?”  The knight asked, lowering his sword.
            With no answer came beyond the amused huff of the giant dragon the knight turned and fled the circle at what he thought was a controlled march, but came off more as a whimpering scamper.
            Tara blew out a smoke ring, “You two sort your crap out, I’m going to my room.”
            “There’s some leftover cattle in the grotto if you’re hungry dear.”  Catryn called out as Tara disappeared into the darkness of the cave.
            “Thanks mom, good night dad.”
            The parents turned back to each other.
            “You know she’ll never meet a nice boy at this rate.”  Catryn said.
            “Good, no boy is good enough for her.” Reginald said.
            They stood in silence for a moment, listening to the distant sound of the knight calling for his horse.
            “So,” Reginald coughed, “See you in two weeks?”
            “Only because the court ordered it.” Catryn said as she ducked back inside the cave.
            Renos straightened his robes as he walked out into the valley.  His tower was a good distance away and he knew just which horse to steal.
            And just which knight to curse into a toad on the way.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Rusty Nail

Aaaaand we're back.  I had a few weeks where things were a bit too busy, then a week where I simply fell off the wagon with my writing.

That being said, I'm back!  Pretty simple premise this week, the challenge was to mash together two fiction genres, I took a look at the list and thought back to this group and decided it would be fun to use them again.  (As always, please read that first if you aren't familiar with this cast...and totally not to boost my page views.)

This is actually the product of two weeks worth of pecking at the keyboard...again, kinda fell out of practice.

The Rusty Nail
The tavern’s sign swung in the rain, water sheeting off the wood.  A cloaked figure ducked inside, shutting the door behind them.
Tossing back the hood revealed a young woman who shook off the rain before making her way through the room.
She wove a quick path between the tables, avoiding the roaring hearth where a few patrons were huddled over their drinks.  She settled into a seat in a shadowed corner where a group of four waited.
A rugged man with the scruff of a beard shadowing his face.  A young woman who sat with a noble posture despite the plain cut of her robes.  A man with his head pillowed in his arms, moaning occasionally.  And a young man leaning back in his chair, tuning the strings of his lute.
“It’s quiet,” Sera said as she took the steaming mug Flynt passed her.  “Not many are out in this rain but everyone is gossiping about the death of the queen, no offence my Lady.”
Queen Valentina, or now simply ‘Tina’, acknowledged Sera’s apology with a nod.  Her golden hair darkened to a dirty brown and tied back in a loose braid doing a great deal to disguise her, she motioned Sera to continue.
“There are no rumors then that we have entered the city?”  She asked.
“No my Lady, but we should be careful,“ Sera said.  "Getting close to Duke Weston will be its own challenge."
"Indeed, you're still rather recognizable Tina," Flynt grinned.  "What do you remember of the Weston’s manor?"
Valentina frowned at Flynt's tone, "Not much of value I fear.  I did not have reason to study his security.  I know the layout of the building, but not much else."
"I can go watch the guards, find out their routine?”  Sera suggested, “It’ll take time but-."
Gibson looked up from the table, "I know their routine."
"How do you know their routine?"  Sera asked.
"I was drinking with them last night," Gibson winced at the light.  "We were playing dice and I got them talking about the manor."
"You're terrible at dice." Sera said.
"Which is exactly why they kept talking, and drinking," Gibson smirked.  "They were complaining about having to take extra shifts, seems the Duke is getting paranoid."
"That'll make sneaking in difficult," Flynt frowned.  "We could try scaling the wall during a shift change.  But with five of us-."
Tristan interrupted with the strum of a low chord, "I believe we're overthinking this."  He turned towards Valentina, "Tell me Majesty, how's your singing voice?"


"This is a terrible plan."  Sera muttered as she crept through the halls of the manor.
"So you've said, repeatedly.  Now be quiet."  Flynt whispered.
They made their way down the halls until they found set of double doors marked with a gold inlay around the frame.
“This is it,” Flynt said as he pulled on the latch but the doors didn’t move.
“Move aside,” Sera tugged a pair of picks from her sleeve.  “Keep an eye out.”
Flynt stepped back to give her space, sweeping his gaze back and forth in the shadowed hallway.  “Make it quick, we’re on a schedule here.” He whispered.
Sera ignored him, twisting the lockpicks around the tumblers until she was met with a satisfying click.  Sliding the doors open she ducked inside, pulling Flynt along behind her.


“Sera and Flynt will sneak in to the manor through the back gardens,” Tristan pointed at the rough sketch Valentina and Sera had produced.  “Lady Valentina and I will provide a distraction here, in the courtyard.  Gibson, once you hear the signal you’ll stage the ‘attack’.”


            Gibson knelt in the shadows of a nearby alley, keeping the manor wall in view as he finished readying his arsenal.
            Tying the last of the sulfur and saltpeter packets to his arrows, he lit a small candle and hid the light behind a barrel, shielding it from the view of any patrolling guards.
            When Queen Valentina’s voice began drifting across the night breeze, Gibson lit the first of the fuses and shot the arrow into the dark sky.
            The bright explosion of color was almost as satisfying as the clamor of alarm bells.


            “Once the Duke thinks he’s under attack he’ll retreat to his chambers.  Gibson will keep the guards busy with more distractions, while you and I sneak away in the confusion.”


            The moment the first arrow detonated in a burst of light that cast the courtyard in sharp relief, Tristan dropped his lute, letting it swing back behind him.  He grabbed Valentina’s hand as the guards all ran to secure the manor gates.
            “Come Majesty, we don’t have much time.”
            Valentina fell into step beside him as they ran to an unmanned doorway.  Ducking inside they found themselves in the servant’s quarters.
            “This way.”  Valentina took the lead, “The kitchen should be down this hall.”
            As they ran down the hall Sera stepped out from behind a corner, “Come on, quick!”


            “Flynt will secure the Duke’s chambers while Sera comes and leads us back.”


            Flynt stood in a corner of the room, hidden behind the door as the Duke stumbled inside.
            “Find them!” He shouted.  “We’re under attack you fools!  Get out there and do your jobs!”
            The portly man slammed the door and turned the lock, as he turned away Flynt slid out from the shadows and grabbed hold of him.  Locking the man’s arms to keep him still and pressing a handkerchief over the Duke’s mouth to keep him silent.
            “Just relax, your Lordship, we’re not going to hurt you.”  Flynt said, turning the man to face the back of the room.
            The not-so-secret servant door slid open, revealing Sera, Tristan and Valentina.  Valentina had donned her crown and looked down her nose at the Duke.
            “Duke Emrys of Westboro, I am disappointed you did not recognize me in the courtyard.”  She settled herself in the chair at the Duke’s desk, lacing her fingers in her lap she leaned forward and said, “I believe we need to have a discussion about your allegiance to the crown.”

Thursday, June 5, 2014

FFF - Yet Another Don & John, Now with 100% more magic

Yep, I'm using Don and John again.

This week the Terribleminds challenge was to take two words from the given lists &, using them as the title, write a story from that title.  Last time this challenge came up I wrote a pretty fun western (fun to write at least).  As always with the list challenges I randomly generated a few combinations; Dead Boy's Curse, Scarlett Gunslingers, Amaranthine Promise, Junkie's Breakfast.  All of which had great potential but none of them were really speaking to me.

I saw the potential combo of Unlucky Beetle and the idea of Don suffering from bad luck was too entertaining to pass up.  Also I've been wanting to experiment with adding magic to the 'Baugmann & Baugmann' universe, so I used this as an excuse.  If anyone isn't familiar with the past stories/adventures for Don & John You Should Start Here

I'm going to try to not make every Friday story about these two, but since I'm tentatively using them as the basis of my first novel, expect to see more of them in the future.

B & B – The Unlucky Beetle
            “Have you filed a report yet?”  John asked the museum curator.
            “Yes, the officers have already cleared the scene.”  The man shook his head, “I thought to call you because…”
            Don tuned them out, knowing John would get any pertinent info.  Looking around the remains of the exhibit it was hard to tell what had been damaged during the burglary.
            ‘Rather than what Michael’s tromped over.’ Don thought, nudging some broken glass with his shoe.
            The display case had held an entire collection of antique jewelry, apparently notable because no one had been able to nail down exactly where it had come from.  Now all that was left were shards of glass and crumpled ID placards.
Don noticed a gleam of light coming from the far corner of the display.  Reaching out he picked up a small golden beetle, about the size of his thumb.
            ‘Why leave this behind if they took everything else?’ He wondered.  ‘They couldn’t have missed it, the case was picked clean.’
            Holding it up to the light Don tried to get a closer look but hissed when the figurine cut his finger.
            John looked over as the beetle hit the floor.  “You ok?”
            “Damn thing bit me.” Don said, scratching at his hand.
            “It couldn’t have bitten you it’s…”  John trailed off, staring at Don’s hand.
            They both stared as Don’s scratching revealed a black tattoo of the beetle forming on his skin.

Don's curse filled the office as he leapt from his seat.
John looked up from the couch.  "What's wrong?"
"My damn mug broke,” Don said, shaking spilled coffee from his hands, “that's what’s wrong."
John turned back to his books, "It's just a mug Don."
"I don't care about the stupid mug, I care about the hot coffee all over my pants."  Don said.
"I warned you something like this might happen."  John said.
Don scratched at the beetle mark on the back of his hand. "Tell me you've found a way to fix it?"
Shaking his head John said, "Nothing so far."
"You're the one with magic, can't you just wizard this away?"  Don waved an imaginary wand.
John shook his head, "You know it doesn't work that way.  Besides, I'm an empath.  I need time and resources for spells outside my range."
"So spell this damn thing off my hand."  Don held out the beetle mark.
"I don't think I could.”  John sighed.  “We need to get the brooch back to the collection to get rid of the curse."
Don huffed and grabbed a smoke from his pocket.
"Please don't smoke in here." John said reflexively.
"Oh for-“ Don threw his hands up.  “I'm going for a walk!"
He stormed out of the office slamming the door hard enough that the glass cracked.
"God damn it." John heard Don mutter.
As Don stomped down the hall John heard a crash and a thud followed by a terse "God damn it!"

An hour later Don staggered back into the office holding his hand out looking ready to cut it off.
            “Get.  It.  Off.”  He ground out.
            John took in his partner’s appearance; coat torn, tie missing and pants stained with more than just coffee.  Carefully clearing his throat he spoke.
            “I might have an idea.”  He said.  “But you’re not going to like it.”
            “At this point,” Don said, flopping down at his desk. “I don’t care.”
            “Well,” John pointed at an open page, “I think we can track the magic causing your bad luck back to the source.”
            Don glared at the mark, “The beetle is still at the museum.”
            “That’s just it,” John’s eyes lit up the way they always did when he explained magical theory.  “The beetle isn’t the source.  The curse is designed to punish anyone who removed that item from the collection.  It was probably left behind because the original thieves didn’t want to take the risk.”
            Don rolled his eyes, “I’m going to assume there’s a point here?”
            “The collection is the source of the magic, Don.” John said.
            “So you want to use the curse that’s on my hand-“
            “To track the rest of the collection.  Exactly.”
            “What’s the catch?”
            “There’s a…” John hesitated. “There’s a strong chance that this will make your bad luck worse.”
            “Exactly how much worse?”  Don asked.
            “Your curse will feed off my tracking spell, and the closer we get to the collection the stronger my spell will become.”  John explained.
            “The worse my luck will get.”  Don finished.
            As Don sat considering their options, a sharp creak came from his chair before one of the legs gave out and dumped him on the floor.
            “Ok.” His voice floated out from under his desk. “Let’s do it.”

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday Flash Fiction - Don & John...again

I hope no one is getting sick of these two, because I'm certainly not.

This is pretty much a direct continuation of last week's story (found here).  This week I kept it pretty short, the challenge over at Terribleminds went up a bit late so I had to rush this slightly.  I almost added another scene but I wouldn't have had the time to edit it properly.  Anyway, enough rambling.

B & B – Interrogation
            The man rocked back in and forth in his chair, the metal legs clinking softly on the floor with each pass.  He pulled the handcuffs tight, wrists worn red and raw from the pressure.
            “A poetic pattern retains inertia.  A poetic pattern retains inertia.”
            Don stood in the observation room, watching the lunatic through the mirrored glass.
“How long has he been doing that?”
Derek Franklin, the department’s head profiler, shrugged.  “Ever since you and John brought him in.”
Don hid clenched fists in his crossed arms, “Do we even know who he is?”
Derek shook his head, “No I.D. when he came in, and his prints didn’t turn up in any databases.”
“And he hasn’t said anything else?”
“He asked if the tooth fairy would visit.”
Don arched an eyebrow, “Seriously?”
“No.  But you did knock out a tooth when you pistol whipped him.”
“Forgive me for not caring.” Don huffed.
Derek chuckled, “You won’t hear me complain.”
They were cut off when the door to the holding room opened and John stepped inside.  For his part the prisoner didn’t react, continuing to rock and mutter that same phrase.
Don watched as John let the door click shut and crossed the room, he passed within reach of the man and Don tensed, but the prisoner didn’t react.
John sat down across the table and opened the thin folder he’d carried in.
“You’ve been linked to over a dozen murders over the last year.  All young women, all taken from their homes, but no other connection we can see.”
The rocking stilled for a moment.
John laced his fingers together, “We’d like to know why.”
The man resumed rocking his chair, “A poetic pattern retains inertia.”
“Is that why you killed these women?” John asked.  “Fulfilling a pattern?”
“A poetic pattern retains inertia.”
John leaned forward, “What does that mean?”
“A poetic pattern-“
“Why did you choose these women?”
The man slammed his hands on the table, “A poetic pattern retains inertia!”
Don leapt for the observation room’s door but Derek held him back.
John hadn’t even twitched, he looked up at the man.
“Sit back down.  You’re not fooling anyone.”
The man didn’t move, “A poetic-“
“Pattern retains inertia.” John cut him off.  “You’re not insane, stop trying so hard.”
The prisoner sat back down, tugging at the handcuff chains.
“Now,” John said, “Why did you kill these women.”
The man smiled, the same damn grin he had in the storage locker, “There’s a pattern.”  He reached out and took the victim photos, laying them out on the table.
“I played my role,” he said, “my job is done.  But my work is not.”
Don can barely see the layout of the photos, and he doesn’t see the connection.  But he can see the look on John’s face.  It’s the same expression his partner gets when he finds the last clues to a case.
As the last photo is laid on the table the door to the observation room bursts open, a panicking rookie cop almost falls into the room.
“Franklin, sir,” he pants, “there’s been another murder.”
From the other side of the soundproof glass the man looks up at John, spreading his hands over the table he grins and points to an empty spot.
“A poetic pattern retains inertia.”

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Don & John Strike Again

Seriously these two are becoming more than a recurring theme in my works.  First here, then here, and now I'm using them again!  Seriously, if you haven't read their earlier appearances please do.  It will make things clearer her...and I like the attention.

Anyway, the challenge of the week was pretty simple.  Use the theme "We're all human, even when we're not' in the story in some way.  I had a few ideas, some pretty generic things like a werewolf or other monster fighting the curse, etc etc.  But then the image of Don holding a gun to someone's head and having to stop himself from pulling the trigger came to mind and this story grew from there.

Came pretty close to the word limit this week too, I might have done more with this, but it's been a busy week.  I think this piece stands strongly as is.  There are some pretty obvious things I'm trying to convey here and I'll let you figure them out.  But mostly I wanted to have a story where...Well, you'll see.

B & B - Humanity
Don looked up from his desk when a shadow fell across the office door.
It had been a quiet morning.  He and John had been enjoying the downtime between cases to finish some neglected projects.  Well, Don was taking the opportunity to work.  John had spent the morning lounging on the sofa with a cup of tea, ruffling through the morning paper.
The figure hovered outside the door, raising their hand to knock on the frosted glass window only to hesitate and back away.
Don called out, "The door's open."
John tossed him a glare which he returned with a quick mimicking squint as the door cracked open just enough for a young woman to slip in.
"I'm sorry," she said in a quiet voice, face downcast.  "I was hoping- I mean, I'd like to hire you?"
John rose from the couch and led the woman into the office.  He swept the desk clear, ignoring Don's indignant squawk of, "I was working on that!"
"You can work on your jigsaw puzzles later," to the client he added, "I think we can pencil you in."
John took her coat as he settled her in front of the desk, bustling off to make a fresh pot of tea.  Don leaned back in his seat and took a closer look at the client.
'Lank hair, only enough makeup to push color into pale cheeks and lighten shadowed eyes.  Outfit picked in a rush, buttons half-done, coffee stain on skirt.'
Her hands shook as she took the teacup from John with a muted, "Thank you."
They waited as she settled herself.  Don twitched together a few pieces that had escaped John's callous attack, John leaned against the wall as innocent as if he hadn't ruined a morning's progress.
She finished her tea and set the cup down.  Her voice still quiet but no longer as timid she said.
"My name is Rebecca Walker, and someone is trying to kill me."

John's name showed on the ID, Don had his phone open before the first ring finished.
“What’s wrong?”
“I lost her,” John hissed in pain.  “Someone, white, 5'8", black hair, dark hood.  He jumped us.  She ran off as I was fighting him.”
“You alright?”
“I took a hit when he slammed me against a wall. I was disoriented long enough for him to run after her.”
“Don't move, I’m on my way.”
“You don’t even know where I am.”
“Then shut up and tell me.”
“I’ll be fine Don.  You need to find Rebecca.”

Don’s hand shook as he fought the urge to put a bullet in the bastard’s face.
His jaw ached as he ground out, “Where are they?”
The son-of-a-bitch just grinned, teeth stained red from where Don’s pistol had split his lip.
The room stank of decay, fetid and bloated corpses of young women ‘Victims!’ piled in corners.
And the man kept grinning that red-toothed grin.
The storage locker felt more like an animal’s den.  Don kept his aim steady and tried not to breathe too deeply.
“Where.  Are they?”
The grin widened as the eyes flicked to the far end of the room.  The dim light from a single bare bulb only served to highlight the shadows surrounding a covered work bench.
Don edged around the bastard and pinched the sheet, tugging it off the bench.
As the white fabric fell to the floor he held back a fresh swell of rage and bile.
Rebecca lay screaming in fear.  Her torn throat still dripping red.

“I wanted to,” Don’s hands still shook slightly, dropping ash from a lit cigarette he had yet to touch.  "I wanted to."
John set down a pair of teacups, Don couldn’t bring himself to make the usual snark of ‘Tea, again?’  Looking at the cups he saw the chipped rim of the cup Rebecca had used.
He gripped the smooth wood of the kitchen table, looking at anything but the tea.
Don closed his eyes with a sigh, “I wanted to kill him.  I still do.”
John’s warm hand on his wrist made him twitch away but John held firm.
 “But you didn’t.”
John took the cigarette and took a long drag, coughing slightly as he exhaled.
"Give me that," Don said, taking the cigarette from John.  "You smoke like a novice."  He said, finishing the last of it.
John smiled as he sat down and took one of the tea cups and nudging the other towards Don.
Don ignored the tea and lit a fresh smoke, the match steady in his hands.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Weekly writings

That's right!  I got the story done early again.  As I've said, I'm really just loving having the challenges from Terribleminds.  They're a great way to prompt myself to write more consistently, and it's getting easier the more I do it.

The week the challenge was to take five characters from a list of FIFTY!  I used a random number generator to pick some lists, then mixed & matched those until I ended up with something I liked.  I don't know how much it matters, but the five I ended up using are; The friendly musician, the silent wanderer, the unpredictable hunter who is considered the worst at their job, the aggravated thief in need of a friend, and the mysterious and heroic outlaw.

While I was writing this the first draft was much blander than the final result, I wrote the main structure but then went back in and played with the narrative voice.  I also started thinking about how different tenses can affect the genre.  Anyway, enough rambling.  Here's the story.

Band of Five
A calm stillness filled the forest, broken by the quiet strumming of lute strings.  Tristan let his horse set a steady pace as he tuned the instrument.
“So tell me friend,” he asked his companion, “where are we headed?”
His fellow traveler shrugged, a gloved hand tugging their hood tighter, the dark material of the cloak shrouding their figure and blending with the black stallion.
“Ah, where so ever the road takes us, an excellent way to travel.”
Plucking a few more strings Tristan decided his lute was as tuned as he’d be able to make it for now.  Noting that one of the strings would need replacing soon, he began to strum a casual melody.
“I’m Tristan, by the way, might I at least learn your name, if not the name of our destination?”
His companion kept their silence.
“Perhaps a song then, to pass the time?”
He switched to a jauntier tune.
‘Oh, I once met a girl, she was so sweet.
I met a girl, she swept me off my feet.’
It was a common song, used at many village festivals.
‘I met a girl, she was so fair.
I met a girl, with golden hair.’
Tristan paused, silently prompting his companion for the next verse.
‘We kissed without a care.” A voice floated through the trees.
Tristan stopped playing as they rounded a turn in the path, seeing the source of the voice.  The man in a simple green tunic and tan breeches wasn’t out of the ordinary.
What was unexpected was that he was hanging upside-down, swinging gently in the breeze.
“Hello there.  I don’t suppose you could help me down?” He turned in a slow circle, facing away from them.  “Or at least keep playing?  It’s rather boring up here.”
“Well met friend,” Tristan pulled his horse alongside the hanging man.
He took hold and turned the fellow around putting them, somewhat, eye-to-eye.  The leather strip with the sigil of the Hunter’s Guild not currently necessary to keep the man’s long brown hair out of his eyes.
“Tell me,” Tristan asked, “how does a Hunter fall prey to his own snare?”
“Funny you should ask.  I wasn’t catching much in the woods, so when my friend suggested I try the road I figured it couldn’t hurt.”
“Your friend… told you to put a trap in the road?” Tristan arched a brow.
“Yes,” the man pointed, setting himself turning again, “she’s right behind those bushes.”
“Dammit Gibson!”
Tristan turned to see a small figure stumble from the bushes, her short cloak getting caught in the brambles.  As she pulled free her hood fell back revealing dark hair framing a young face.
 "Hello there friend,” Tristan waved.  “My name is Tristan, travelling musician and performer."  With a short bow he gestured to the other rider, "My friend in the cloak prefers to keep their own counsel.  May I ask who you are?"
"I'm the one robbing you."  She said, drawing a hand crossbow.
She took aim at Tristan as Gibson spoke, "She's Sera."
"God dammit Gibson!"
Sera raised the crossbow a bit higher and fired a bolt into the trees, severing the snare and dropping Gibson, who let out a sharp yelp of surprise.  Tristan tried to support the hunter but the man's flailing dragged them both to the ground.
Standing up Tristan dusted himself off and tried to help Gibson to his feet, but the man had somehow become tangled in his own rope.
"Now then," Sera said as she nocked another bolt. "I believe I was robbing you all."
"My dear lady," Tristan said with a flourish of his cloak that hid the palming of a throwing knife, "I am all I said, a humble musician.  I have nothing worth taking."
"And what about your friend there?" Sera asked, taking aim at the silent rider.  "Don't think I can't see your jewels under that hood."
Tristan glanced back at his companion, still sitting unmoving on their horse, and gave a start when the figure spoke.
"Sera the Wayfarer?"  They asked in a cultured voice.
Sera smirked, "So you've heard of me."
If derision could cut, Tristan wouldn’t need his knife.  "Your reputation is by association only.  I seek your master."
Sera's smirk turned to a snarl and her grip tightened on the crossbow, "I don't-" she was interrupted as Gibson finally stumbled to his feet.
"Oh you mean Flynt."  He said, still shaking himself free of the ropes.
Sera pinched her eyes closed with a grimace, "God.  Dammit.  Gibson!" She ground through clenched teeth.
Taking the opportunity, Tristan let fly the knife.  The blade drove into the body of the crossbow and knocked it from the hand of the distracted thief.
Pleased with himself, Tristan turned to his no longer silent companion.  But his grin slid off his face when Sera pulled out a second crossbow, nocked and ready to fire.
"I don't have a 'master'."  She snarled.
"Indeed!" a deep voice boomed out from the forest canopy.
From the trees a man swung down, letting go of his rope well before the ground he flipped through the air and landed in a kneeling crouch in front of the cloaked rider, his arms spread wide kept his cape flaring dramatically.
"Master is such an ordinary title, I like to think of myself as the brave and heroic leader."  He rose only long enough to perform a swooping bow.  "Flynt of the Forest Steel, at your service."
            The quiet rider reached up and pulled back the hood of the cloak, revealing a woman young of years and yet aged with wisdom and responsibility.  The crest of her circlet identified her as clearly as her long golden hair.
"Sir Francis of Stonewall," she said, "your Queen requires your services as a knight once more."
Flynt, or Francis, chuckled softly.  "So, the rumors are true.  The royal family has been usurped."
"Indeed," said Queen Valentina.  "Although reports of my death are somewhat premature."
Flynt stood straighter, his flamboyancy dropping away as his shoulders settled with responsibility.  It suited him, like a favorite cloak being worn again after a long time.
"Sera, Gibson," Francis called over his shoulder, "go alert the others.  We have ourselves a new patron."
Sera lowered her crossbow in stunned awe while Gibson tripped over the ropes and fell again.
Tristan's fingers twitched for his lute, 'This is going to make an epic ballad.'