Flash Fiction Challenge: River’s Mask

This story is brought to you by FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: Chose your title and write at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds. This takes place in the same universe as the story I posted last week, but it takes place a few years before. These are all set pieces for a fantasy trilogy kicking around in my head. Hope you like it! –FY

Leena Catilyna ran her gloved hand over the skewered rodent Sergeant Twinnings prepared for her. A moment of focus and the Tatter bound to her otherwise useless finger pulsed and heat poured from her hand, cooking the meat evenly. A few months ago and she might have burned their dinner, but long stretches in the field taught her enough basic meal preparation to keep her soldiers happy. No one doubted the effect of a hot meal on moral, especially when sneaking through a damp wood underneath clouds thick with snow. To a Weaver, nothing mattered more than the moral of her troops.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Flash Fiction Challenge: Loose Ends

Macrocosm
This story is brought to you by FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: RANDOM FLICKR PHOTO CHALLENGE at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds. Wow, it’s been almost three months since I’ve done a proper one of these. A little rusty, but fun, and introduces two characters that have been around in the back of my head for a while. Hope you enjoy! –FY

“Do you have it?”

The tall man sat next to the Broker without asking permission. She eyed him as best she could under the dangling hood of her cloak. Boots caked in drying mud adorned his feet, likely the source of the smell that announced his presence. Thick trousers and a patched woolen tunic stretched tightly over his well muscled frame. She caught a glimpse of his face reflected in his ale mug. He’d changed since last they’d spoke. The scruff on his face now resembled an actual beard. So young, pretending to be so much older. His eyes sunk deeper into the growing dark circles beneath them. So tired.

“Keep your voice down, Kensley.”

Kensley glanced around the tavern. The Broker knew what he would see. Herself, her silent companion in full black plate mail, and a barman cleaning a glass with his back turned to them, the bar room was empty. “Why bother? No one here will betray us.”

“Ears always listen. Mouths always speak. Do well to remember that in your coming revolution.”

“You try my patientence, crone.” Kensley paused, distracted by the faint hissing that came from the helmet of her silent companion. “Do you have it?”

The Broker slide a small wooden box on the table. “The price has gone up.”

“Again?”

“There were,” a spasm of pain rattled her arm,’”complications.”

Kensley lowered his head. “How many men did you lose?”

The Broker lowered her shaking arm beneath the table. “I lost enough. The price is now thirty thousand imperial.”

“That’s a significant increase.”

“You’re paying for significant power.”

Kensley stood to paced around the room. “No. I’ll only pay ten thousand, as we agreed.”

The Broker motioned to her companion. They started to rise. “Very well. Another buyer will be found.”

“Wait. Fine. Twenty. We can meet halfway.”

She sat back in the seat. “Twenty nine. Take the deal. Negotiate no further.”

“Ok, how about twenty five? You still come out fifteen thousand ahead, and I get to keep some dignity.”

“Thirty.”

Kensley ran his hand through his hair, pulling the shag at the base of his neck. “That’s not how negotiation works.”

The Broker let a half smile dance on her lips. “Thirty five.”

Kensley slammed his fist on the table. “I don’t have that!”

“But you have thirty.”

Kensley sagged. “Yes.”

“Then take the deal, or not. Quit wasting my time.”

Kensley paced the length of the bar several times. He reached into his shirt several times. He reached for the box once.

“Is it really a piece of her power?” he said, fingers outstretched.

The Broker slid the lid back. Inside the black velvet lined box sat a crystalline blue orb, etched with intricate designs.  “A Tatter. The same source of power as the Empress. Frozen. Ingestible. As promised.”

Kensley sighed heavily. He pulled a large pouch from his tunic and tossed it on the table with a heavy thud. Another two smaller pouches joined it, followed by several handfuls of lose coin. “Thirty thousand. A year’s worth of taxes for this province. Every coin to my name. All worth it for the power to fight the Tyrant.”

She pushed the box towards him careful not to touch the orb with her hands. “Do not forget the price.”

“I gave you all the money I have.”

“Not my price. The price it,” she pointed to the blue orb, “will demand of you.”

“I will pay anything for the chance to strike her down and free my people. Nothing and no one will stop me.” A jagged smile cut across his face. “I begin my hunt at daybreak.”

“Of course. A pleasure doing business with you.” The Broker said the last of those words to empty air. Kensley had already vanished with his prize.

She accepted her companion’s offer of aid in collecting the money and carrying it to their carriage around back. Safely inside she removed the heavy cloak and retrieved her jeweled circlet of office. Her companion removed her helmet, revealing a lined face surrounded by close cropped brown hair with hints of grey, a faint smile on her face. The Broker, no Emilia now, glared at her.

“Mother! You nearly gave us away by laughing.”

“I couldn’t help it. I can’t believe he called you a crone. You’re barely thirty.”

“I can’t blame him.” Emilia, brushing away the last vestiges of her black market persona, frowned at her brittle white hair and her wrinkled hands. “If you don’t mind my asking, why give him that power? He did not lie. He intends to confront you as soon as he can find you.”

“Because thirty thousand imperials can buy mercenaries and weapons. Because a war would inflict terrible atrocities on my people, on my land. Because I might be able to convince him to join us once I’ve beaten him.”

“And if he kills you?”

“I imagine I won’t be terribly concerned with anything.”

“Mother!”

The Empress held up her hands placatingly. “Fine, fine. If he kills me, the Empire falls. Don’t worry, I’m not so old and frail that I can’t take one warrior on my own.”

Emilia knew that her mother felt confident about the fight, at least. “What of Governor Dimval?”

“We managed to recover the stolen taxes, so he shall keep his head.”

“Allowing failure to go unpunished? All the other tyrants will be disappointed in you.”

“Next time he won’t be so lucky.” The Empress tapped on the roof of the carriage. “Driver! Take us back to the Traveling Court. I’ve got to prepare for company.”

NANOWRIMO CHALLENGE: A SNIPPET OF YOUR WORK – The Cicada’s Drone

*Walks around the blog, kicks the tires. Wipes away a thick layer of dust.*
Hey everyone, sorry for neglecting the blog so much in the past few weeks, but I’ve been super focused on writing. Since I’m NaNoWriMo-ing, and the challenge at terrible minds was to post 1k of your best stuff, it’s a pretty easy. Except for the fact this is pure rough draft, and I’m putting it out in the world without any polish. That’s a little scary. But yeah, here’s a glimpse at what I’ve been working on. Enjoy!

 

“Jesus Christ, Roy. Do you have a death wish?”

Conroy laughed. He hadn’t actually eaten anything substantial for most of the day, just a few candy bars and a sandwich, just enough to keep his brain from shorting out. This about balanced it out.

“Life’s too short for carrot sticks, Azure.”

They sat in silence while he slowly devoured the grease bomb. The buffalo sauce was relatively weak, but still enough to provide a bit of a tingle in the back of his throat and his nostrils. For a few minutes, everything was forgotten. The gruesome visions always on his mind, the certainty that he was letting so many people down by doing this, by being a private detective, mostly because it sounded cool. The shame of being an embarrassment, a terrible friend, all of it faded as each grease soaked bit vanished from the plate. He sat back with a satisfied smile on his face.

“Now, Azure, cut the shit. What did you want to talk about?”

She smiled, really smiled, for the first time that night. “Welcome back, Roy.”

She pulled a couple of photos from her pocket. “I found these paintings in the victim’s bedroom. They look like something you might have run into back in the day.”

Conroy looked them over. More detailed version of some of the things from the sketchbook. Finished works. “Yeah, they look familiar.”

“Feel up to consulting again?”

He smiled. “Sure. My fee’s gone up a bit.”

She glared.

“I’m sure I can cut you a deal though, for old times sake.”

#

When Sergeant Benson dropped Conroy off at his office, he didn’t notice anything wrong at first. Oh, sure, the shadows danced and pulsed menacingly, but that happened almost every night. He climbed the stairs, ignoring the low growls coming from the office below his.

He ran his fingers along the steel railing. Near the top the warm metal became damp, sticky. He brought his fingers to his nose, fearing the coppery smell of blood. Sweet, sharp, but rich. Something else. Some other viscus fluid then. Something strange. He wiped his hand on the wall. There was enough here that he’d be able to gather more if it proved the least bit interesting.

The door stood open, cracked an inch. Conroy muttered a curse. He locked it. He remembered locking it. Could he have forgotten? No. Someone was here. Someone had broken in. He reached for the small gun that nestled in the small of his back.

He pressed his hand against the door. Warm. Smooth. He looked at the doorjamb, at the lock. He expected to see some sign of a break in, a busted lock plate or maybe scratches at keyhole. Nothing. Pristine. Just like he’d walked out and forgotten it. Whoever did this was good.

Conroy pushed the door open. Inside it was dark, deep, a pit that he could fall in forever. He navigated by memory, stepping around furniture as his eyes adjusted to the darkness. A window, shades drawn back, let a little bit of light into the room.

“Well met by moonlight.” he whispered.

Through the reception area, into his office proper. A glow, blinding him. He raised his gun, finger on the trigger, ready to fire.

“Wait!”

That voice. Familiar. Didn’t belong here. Not now. Wrong. Conroy shook his head. He lowered the gun, confused. Standing by his desk, clad in a diaphanous gown, was a face familiar and foreign.

“Maureen?”

The woman nodded. Conroy held his hand up to his face, trying to block some of the glare. He realized that the glow wasn’t coming from anything in his office manager’s hand, but from the dress itself.

“The fuck, Maureen? I thought you were in the Rockies with Danny.”

She nodded. “I had to come here, to warn you.”

“About what?”

“Just take the money and walk away. There’s things at work here, forces that you cannot begin to comprehend. You cannot hope to survive this. It’s been a good run. It’s time to let it be.”

“Sorry you wasted a trip, but don’t worry, I’ve got this.”

“Let it go.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know how to explain it. I owe the kid. I took his money. I need to solve his case.”

“You’re not that good a person, Conny.”

Conroy bristled at the nickname. Maureen was the only one who could get away with calling him that name to his face.

“Fine, you’re right. It’s the mystery of the thing. This is too weird. I’ve got to know what’s going on.”

Maureen tousled his hair with her hand. “Curiosity killed the cat.”

“And satisfaction brought him back.” Conroy replied.

Maureen smiled the ghost of a smile. “We miss you, Conny.”

“Back at ya, kid.”

“We’ll see you soon.”

“You bet. Just come back safe when your vacation’s over.”

Maureen turned and took three steps towards the door before exploding into a cloud of silver moths, each one glowing as brightly as her dress. The swarm circled the room twice, buffeting papers and posters before flying out through the closed window, up towards the moon.

Conroy woke with a start. He lay facedown on his desk, a line of drool dried to the side of his face. In one hand he held the bottle of codeine pills. A quick rattle showed it was emptier than it should be. In his other hand he held his picture of Maureen and Danny, on their wedding day. In the photo, Conroy had his arms around the happy couple. Everyone was smiling and laughing. It seemed a world away. Conroy reached up to brush away the tears streaming down his face.

With shaking hands he put the bottle back into his desk drawer, and the picture back on his desk, next to his laptop stand. The office was just as dark as in his dream. He flicked on the light, blinking rapidly as the bright light caused his already damp eyes to water.

Flash Fiction Challenge: Space Opera

This story is brought to you by FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: YOUR VERY OWN SPACE OPERA at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds. This is kind of building in the world touched on by the Ragged Abyss story, though takes place a bit in the future. Hope you enjoy! –FY

Klaxons blared throughout the ship, echoing down twisting hallways and through cramped quarters. Dozens of crew members surged to their feet. The Captain found a new quarry. Time to hunt.

“Ready the aft cannons!” Her voice crackled over the loudspeaker, filled with exuberant joy.

Remington Harto rushed to his battle station, his tattered cruise ship uniform hanging loosely around his newly toned frame. He glanced at the other gunners as he slid into his chair. Mostly fresh faces, though not necessarily young. A gray beard sat only a few feet down from him, just as low as Remington on the totem pole, and Lieutenant Nuvella, the woman leading their little squad, looked so young that even MilSec would have told her to come back after a few years. But that young face was split by a deep scar. Experience was all that mattered on the Strange Aeon.

Three clicks and a scan of his thumb print brought the weapon to life. The monitor on the targeting computer lit up, showing a clear view of the wide expanse of space.

Continue reading

Flash Fiction Challenge: Everyday Business

This story is brought to you by FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: PICK A CHARACTER AND GO, GO, GO at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds. I used Jersey Malone, created by HELEN ESPINOSA. Helen, thanks for putting Jersey out there and letting use play in your sandbox. As always, hope y’all enjoy this glimpse into another world.  Peace! –FY

The sign above the door held no words, only a cartoonish mug with an overflowing head of foam. Didn’t matter. A sign would have only said “BAR” but it would have had to say it in so many damn languages it wouldn’t have been worth the effort. Besides, everybody knew, it wasn’t a bar, it was THE Bar. Someone new, dusty, fresh from the wastes might press for more, might ask “Which bar?”, and anyone with half a brain would tell them it’s Jersey’s bar, and you best keep the peace if you go in.

Continue reading

Flash Fiction Challenge: Claudia Artifex

This story is brought to you by FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: TIME TO CREATE A CHARACTER at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds. So here’s a rough sketch of a character that has been poking around in the back of my head. Hope someone out there can use her. Peace. –FY

Claudia Artifex posses a strange artifact, a family heirloom. Passed down from mother to daughter, this necklace can open any lock in the world. As far as Claudia knows, her mother used the power sparingly, traveling to small villages in order to right injustices, but leaving her young daughter behind in the care of a family friend who raised her more than her own flesh and blood.

On her fifteenth birthday, her mother did not return, but the necklace did. There was talk of an accident, saving a school full of children, but it doesn’t matter. Claudia rebells against her mother’s teachings, becoming a high priced cat burglar, becoming a chess piece in the games of the rich and powerful.

Eventually that life catches up to her, and, with fresh scars, Claudia finds herself at twenty five, traveling from town to town all over the world, performing odd jobs, trying to do enough good to find some kind of balance in her life. It’s in one of these small towns that Claudia finds out two things: Electronic security measures fall just as easily to her skeleton key, and her mother’s death isn’t at all that it appeared to be.

 

Flash Fiction Challenge: The Ragged Abyss

This story is brought to you by FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: SIX RANDOM TITLES at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds. Two of the other titles, “The Third Girl” and “The Flame of the Years” may make appearances in later stories. This title, combined with one of Joseph Michael’s amazing photos inspired a neat bit of short fiction. Hope you like it! –FY

The greying man leaned against a bulkhead, absently tapping the ash from a cold cigar. “Nietzsche reportedly claimed that if you gaze long enough into the abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” He turned towards his pupils, eyes red-rimmed from too many sleepless nights. “Each of you owes me five pages on how that quote applies to the Way, and the opening of the Gate. Due tomorrow.”

Continue reading