Greatest Threat

The necromancer laid dead at Welf’s feet. Thick black blood oozed from its wounds. Welf turned to his party, a wolfish grin across his face. The rest of his party looked exhausted and battered, but small smiles crept across their faces as well.

“We finally did it.” Azer’s voice sounded dumbfounded. “All the minions, all the little quests and we finally killed that necromancer!” His wizards hat was bloody and askew.

“No thanks to you, cowering in the corner like a pansy,” Griss growled. He stood up from where he had been blasted to the floor and picked up his bloody daggers.

“Hey! I ran out of spells! I was using cantrips every round! This is what happens when you decide not to do a long rest before taking on the big boss,” Azer’s voice squeaked indignantly.

“Really you two? You knew there was a time crunch before he summoned his patron to the realm. We had to act. Stop bickering,” Lillian said. Her armour still glowed with faint holy light, even in a dungeon this dark and deep. “Besides, now that this is all done, I’m sure we can go take some time off and find something to spend the reward we get from the king, as well as whatever treasure we find down here.”

“Bad things! Friends!” Welf shouted, pointing at the piles of bones laying around the party. They were reanimating, rising up into larger forms than they had been previously. Within seconds, flesh and muscle was creeping over the bones. Before the party could reacted, the mass of skeletal defenders the necromancer had assembled had reanimated into five owlbears.

“Seriously Frank?” Lillian groaned.

“C’mon Frank, I gotta head home soon. You can’t just extend the fight because you thought it was too easy,” Azer said. “Let’s just call it.”

“Yeah I’m out,” Griss agreed. “I have a chem paper due monday that I haven’t started.”

The owlbears advanced. The party did nothing.

“See you Frank! Thanks for the great night, can’t wait to see what you have planned next week!” Welf’s voice was faint.

The owlbears leapt on the party, feasting on their flesh. There was no retaliation from the four heroes. They were frozen in place by some greater magic. As the pain and terror became too much, a tear rolled down Lillian’s cheek. Why did her god have to forsake her now? Why would she let such a terrible thing happen to them?

“Fine, they can leave. These can be waiting for them next week.” An unknown voice echoed through the room. “But they’ll start at disadvantage.”

In a blink, everything had rewound. The owlbears were mere feet away from the party, mouths open in undead hunger. Lillian stood, frozen in place, still unable to move. In the corner of her eyes she could see Welf straining against the force that held them in place. How long would this stasis last?

The torchlight dimmed and then went out a few hours later. In complete darkness, Lillian could see nothing. Hear nothing. Feel nothing.

In nothingness she waited.

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Flash Fiction: Wishing

The Wishing was well underway. Church members formed the main mass of the parade, proudly displaying their Wishing garments. The glass beads sewn into the cloth reflected the lanterns light across the crowd.

“Peace, Love, Equality!” The Cardinal wished loudly, his staff held high.

Vaera watched from behind Lareth’s, her mother, dress hem, eyes glowing with excitement. Pointing at the knight clanking by them, Vaera tugged softly at the dress. Lareth looked down at her, a smile playing across her face.

A glass bead fell from an outfit of someone passing, and Vaera darted forward to grab the small treasure. Lareth cried out, her hand grabbing at air where Vaera had been seconds before.

“Vaera!” Frantic, Lareth pushed into the procession. A hand grabbed her roughly, pulling her to the edge of the crowd. She quickly lost sight of Vaera as the Cardinal and his worshipers passed by.

“Blessings will be given later, leave the Cardinal to perform the ceremony.” The guard had bags under his eyes, and a deep shadow on his jaw. “Everyone wants to get a wish.”

“No, my daughter! She went into the procession!” Tears streamed down Lareth’s cheeks as she struggled against the firm restraint.

“I can’t let you in there ma’am. The Church requires everyone to wait for their wish.” The words came out monotone, the guard’s eyes glazed over. Lareth’s plight wasn’t reaching him. Heart pounding, Lareth lashed out, striking his broad nose with her elbow. Cursing, he let go of her. Lareth dashed into the crowd.

The cavalcade had thinned now, and Lareth found Vaera crouched on the street unharmed, hands cupped around a glass bead.

“Look momma! My wish came true!” Proudly Vaera showed her treasure.

“Mine too,” Lareth whispered, relieved, as she bent to embrace her daughter.

Flash Fiction: Unpacking

Boxes were scattered about the house, with music from the radio drifting between them. They weren’t the boxes Andrew had pictured unpacking on his birthday. But the job opportunity had been a chance he couldn’t pass up. He started tomorrow. The bedroom had already been unpacked, but he wanted to get the living room done before he went to bed so him and Beth had a space to unwind in. His head was pounding after the long day.

“You know, we could call it a night.” Beth wrapped her arms around him from behind, putting her chin on his shoulder. “I saw a cute ice cream place a few blocks away. It’s a beautiful night, let’s take a walk and get some. I bet they have Birthday Cake flavour.”

“I don’t know, I want to get this done before I head to bed. I gotta be up early.” Andrew turned to Beth, kissing her forehead.

Beth stuck her bottom lip out and gave him puppy dog eyes. “You’re no fun. It’s your birthday, you old stick in the mud. Let’s party!”

“Oh yeah? You, me and who out on the town?” Andrew teased.

“Nah, you only need two to party. How many we got?” She pointed at herself, then Andrew in an exaggerated fashion. “Looks like the right number.”

Andrew gave in, smiling. “Alright, let’s get ice cream.”

“Actually… I’ve got another craving now.” Beth arced her eyebrow salaciously. She reached past Andrew and turned up the radio. The song playing in the background was brought to the forefront.

We’re kiss to kiss,

And heart to heart,

And the music never stops,

Once the love starts…

We’ve got nothing but the radio on…

“C’mon, let’s play ‘Radio says’. It’s just like Simon says.” Beth led him to the bedroom.

Love You to Death

“If you wouldn’t struggle, this would go a lot easier.” I leaned back, examining the knots that held Zaura in place.

“If you let me go, this would also go a lot easier,” She retorted. “For me at least. I make no promises for you.”

I sighed in frustration at her response. If only she could understand the connection between us, how the poetry of the universe bound us. The way we balanced the world around us. But no, she was blinded by the shackles of society. Well that and the ones that I had physically placed on her.

“What do you want from me?” Zaura’s tone changed to one of forced curiosity. “Who even are you?”

“Me? I’m a simple man. A man who understands how things should be. That when things leave the world, it’s not the end. That life and death are a cycle, and that they bleed into each other. Much like love and hate.”

A look of horror dawned on her face. “You’re the necromancer! The letters sent with a human heart, the undead pony…” Her voice trailed off as she shuddered, “Did you really have to put the bouquet of baby’s breath in a vase made out of an infant’s lungs?”

“You don’t get it. This is destiny! Preordained, written in the stars! You bring life, growth, comfort to the people of the world. I am supposed to be right there with you, balancing the scales towards equality. The night to your radiant sunshine.” My voice rose, an excited heat rose in my cheeks.

“You’re mad.”

“I believe the term is love.”

Zaura didn’t respond. Her eyes didn’t fill with understanding like I pictured. She didn’t break down into tears of sorrow at not having seen it sooner. She didn’t beg me to make love to her right then and there. She sat. Silent. She was too attached to the world she clung to. It’s bright lights had blinded her to the point where she couldn’t see true love and passion when it was laid bare before her.

“Can I go?” Her voice wasn’t defeated, or scared. It was resolute, final. “I don’t love you back. I don’t want anything to do with you. I want you to leave me alone. I will let you live if you just let me go.”

“Zaura… This was never going to end in anything but us together.” My heart was heavy. I knew that it would be like I imagined. It just needed to take a different path now. The darker one, like I was made to travel.

I grabbed the chalk, and made the circle for the base of the resurrection spell around her chair. The incense came next, filling the darkened room with a cloying smoke. Finally I grabbed the ceremonial knife and the gold engagement band I had made for this joyous moment.

“Don’t worry,” I assured her as I turned to her. “I won’t cut you anywhere too visible. I want you to be presentable, my sweet.”

I raised the blade. For love.

Flash Fiction: Reflections

He saw himself in the window, and it stopped him short. Hair fell damply around his haggard face. Swollen lips with blood from his broken nose dried crimson. He should have let them steal the woman’s purse. Nothing had changed from him trying, but for the beating he took. His soul was heavy with his weakness. His uselessness. Past his reflection, he saw a lady staring at him. He turned away ashamed, continuing to trudge down the snowy street.

 

“Wait!” She called after him. “My aunt told me of how you put yourself in danger to help her! Come in and let me clean you up.”

 

He turned to her, and in her eyes his reflection was completely transformed. Not useless, but brave and caring. Unexpected pride swelled in his chest. He took her offered hand and followed her inside.

Flash Fiction: Amusement Park Graffiti

“Whoever loves, goes to hell.” The words were engraved into the safety bar. He traced his fingers across the old steel and felt a scab in his memories wanting to bleed again. The taste of raspberry lips and warm sand cooling in the evening tugged at his mind. He gave into it, letting the blood flow.

 

In his mind, that carnival song that no one knew the name to, but everyone could hum flooded the abandoned park. Lights flickered back on, casting lengthy shadows. Ghosts of his past brushed by him, feeling more alive than the moment he was in. He saw himself walking beside her, brimming with hope, none of the wear, tear and misery of life dragging him down.

 

He had loved, and it led to here. To hell. Standing in an old park with nothing but discarded moments and forgotten dreams. As if responding to a jolt, he jerked his hand away from the safety bar. A bittersweet emotion flooded him, and he felt his heart yearn once more. Sure, whoever loves, goes to hell. But that was only half the story. Now it was time to find his way out.

Mourning

“Tell me a story, Watcher!” Her eyes gleamed with hope as she leaned closer to the fire. “Tell me of a time from Before.”

The Watcher didn’t react to the request. He slowly stirred the embers, watching the sparks dance to their deaths in the dark. A few moments of hopeful silence died as it became an eternity of purposeful ignorance. The Watcher adjusted his coat and coughed uncomfortably.

“Don’t bother the Watcher, Eteri.” The mother of the girl who had asked for a story gave the Watcher an apologetic smile. “He doesn’t have to tell any stories tonight. He’s welcome just to share our fire.”

The Watcher gave a slow nod of thanks without looking to the mother. His eyes stayed focused on the embers. “I mourn for a world I will never see. I mourn for the Before.” His voice was smooth, an easy and light baritone. “So starts any story of those who watch. To watch is to see. To see is to learn. To learn is to not repeat.”

“I knew he’d tell a story,” Eteri whispered to her mother. “He’s a Watcher, that’s what they do.”

“Hush child,” her mother responded with a small smile. “Let him speak.”

“My father was a Watcher too. One of the first. He was born in the Before.” The Watcher’s eyes met Eteri’s. “He told me this story.”

“There was a creature called a monkey in the Before. It looked like man, but had a tail. It lived in the jungle, and swung from tree to tree. Monkey was endlessly curious and constantly wanting to learn more. Each day it woke with a question in its heart. Each day it would try to solve the question.

One day Monkey found the largest tree he had ever seen. It stretched high above the canopy of the jungle. The base was so big around it would take Monkey and two dozen of his brothers holding hands to circle the tree. Monkey knew he had to climb to the top to see how far he could see.

There was another creature at the base of the tree. He was Anteater. His mouth was long, and always trying to eat bugs from the dirt. Anteater saw Monkey looking up at the tree and knew no good would come from his curiosity.

‘You shouldn’t go up there. Look down here at the ground, there are many bugs to eat. Your day would be better down here with me, eating to your content.’ Anteater hoped that his words would sway Monkey.
But Monkey would not be dissuaded.

‘I have to see how far I can see from the top,’ He told Anteater. ’I have to go.’

Monkey started climbing, his nimble fingers easily finding holds. He climbed for an hour, till he was above all other trees in the jungle. There he found a creature called Viper. Viper had no arms or legs, but curled his body around a branch to stay where he was. Viper saw Monkey looking at the top of the tree lost in the clouds and knew no good would come from his curiosity.

‘You shouldn’t go up there. Stay with me and sun yourself on this branch. Your day would be better right here with me, warming your fur to your content.’ Viper hoped his words would sway Monkey.

But Monkey would not be dissuaded. 

‘I have to see how far I can see from the top,’ He told Viper. ‘I have to go.’

Above the trees Monkey could see for miles. The wind whipped at him, and he shivered in the breeze. The top of the tree called to him, so he kept climbing. Monkey climbed for two hours, till he could almost touch the bottoms of the clouds. There he found a creature called Bird. Bird could fly, and loved to soar above all other animals. But Bird knew that if Monkey kept going higher, no good would come from his curiosity.

‘You shouldn’t go up there. Stay here with me and kiss the clouds. Your day would be better right here with me, playing with the wind and the sunshine.’ Bird hoped his words would sway Monkey.

But Monkey would not be dissuaded.

‘I have to see how far I can see from the top,’ He told Bird. “I have to go.’

Soon Monkey reached the top. He was above all the clouds, the world just a grey fog beneath him. The sun glared down at him, and the wind pulled hard at him. Monkey struggled to hold on to the top of the tree. He was proud he had done this, but he was scared. A strong gust of wind caught him off guard.

Monkey fell.

Past Bird, past Viper, until he crashed to the ground beside Anteater. Monkey died from the fall. He died to answer his question, to find out how far he could see from the top.

So what is the lesson in this story?” The question was pointed at Eteri. She paused, caught off guard by the abrupt ending.

“We shouldn’t follow our curiosity? It leads to bad things… like the day the bombs happened.” Her voice became more sure as she responded, a hint of pride creeping into her tone as she finished. She smiled at her mother expectantly. Her mother nodded encouragement and rubbed her hand across Eteri’s back.

“I wish life was that clear cut.” The Watcher’s voice was gentle but rebuking. “Curiosity is not the evil, it is heedless searching that leads us to danger. If Monkey had stopped with any of the creatures that asked, he would have learned something new, and become better for it. But he pushed too far, and paid the price.”

“But…” Eteri trailed off as she thought through his words. “How will I know when I’m going too far?”

“That’s the thing about life. No consequence is clear until you’ve made the choice.” The Watcher’s smile was bittersweet, his eyes trailing back to the fire. “Search for the answer to the question in your heart. But know the answer may not be what you want.”