Friday, June 27, 2014

Flash Friday #100 -- It's All in a Name (100 word drabble)

    This desolate place was Apricot's last hope. He entered the temple, bowing to the old man standing inside.

"Please help me. I've failed at every job I've held. Someone makes fun of my name and I end up in a fight."

The old man shrugged. "There's only one answer."


"Change your name."

Apricot stared in amazement. "Yes! What name should I choose?"

"I'm fond of Periwinkle myself."

"Thank you! This will change everything!"

He rushed away. A moment later an ancient man entered from behind the curtains. "Good dinner. Anything happen while I was gone?"

"No sir. Nothing much."

(In honor of the 100the Flash Fiction I wrote this drabble.  Drabbles are 100 words exactly.  It's fun to try to fit a full story into one.)

for more fantastic quick reads

Friday, June 20, 2014

Flash Friday # 99: Survivor


    Garis had been abandoned over a century before because the world never took to terraforming. Even the sheep meant to feed this world and a few others had died off. The humans left, moving to a new settlement and better conditions. For a scavenger like Jared, Garis represented a possible windfall. He'd done the studies; the settlers had been well funded, but when the world failed, they'd cleared out everything they could carry but left the infrastructure behind.
Garis Prime hung below him, a world of brown and grey with splotches of green like a mold on bread. Those spots represented locations where any kind of terraforming had taken, and where the settlements had been located.
Other scavengers had been in before him, and taken anything even remotely tech. He wanted the metal, though, which they had brought in with the first settlers. Saryntine was hungry for metal and paid top credits. For a smalltime scavenger like Jarad, this could be big money.
The main city was probably stripped clean, but it had the port, which was still intact, though silent. He'd put down there, take the sled out to the nearest smaller settlement, and see what he could find.

Two days later he was in a small no-name town cutting away pipe when he heard something odd.
Wind, he told himself. Not a howl. He had stopped working, his breath catching and his hands starting to shake. He always got this way on world. He preferred the ship, alone -- at least since is partner died. He'd been lucky to survive that accident. Robis had always been so damned careless no matter how many times Jared had lectured him. He knew it in the end. "Find a partner you can trust," had been Robis's last words.
Not the time to think about it. He cut some more.
The howl came again. The reports hadn't said anything about indigenous animals. Damn. He looked at the pipe he'd been cutting -- half way done and this was the last one for today. He turned the laser cutter back on and went back to work. Quick and easy work. Then drag it to the sled --
The pipe fell with a loud bang, a bit of sludge dropping out the end. He'd hoped for clean stuff, but wasn't surprised. Jared started down the ladder, anxious to be on the sled and head back to the city. The sun was going down.
As he reached for the pipe, he heard movement and spun. Something moved. Not a human. He heard four feet and claws and then saw eyes flashing in the faint light. Jared had the laser cutter in hand, which would work as a weapon if the thing came closer. It shied back when he flashed it on, the light bright.
He saw what was there. It took him a moment to put a name to it because he couldn't really believe something like that lived out here on a deserted world. He'd seen the picture from Earth.
Big dog, too. He could hear another not far away. The original dogs must have been abandoned when everyone left. Damned strange thing to leave behind. Dangerous now.
He inched his way backwards, glancing at the pipe and deciding it could wait until tomorrow. Get back to the ship and find a way to protect himself.
The dogs followed him, the sounds of growls at his back. He had a laser pistol on the sled, but he hadn't take it with him when he knew the world was abandoned. How the hell had dogs --
Sheep. They'd had sheep, and he remembered dogs were used to herd sheep on earth. The settlers must have abandoned them since they would have been limited in what they could take off world. These were feral now, several generations later. What did they eat? Each other?
If he'd had a partner, they could have still worked, one of them guarding. If Robis hadn't --
One of the dogs howled and leapt at him, catching his ankle before he could swing the cutter around and kill it. He got a second one, but more were coming. His leg bled and hurt like hell -- he didn't know a bite could be so powerful. He feared he couldn't walk very far, but the sled was only a few yards away around the corner of the building. He couldn't have parked it any closer with the walls so tight. Just a little farther. Another few steps. He had a first aide kit on the sled. He'd be fine.
Then he saw a dog and something smaller rushing at him from beside the sled. He gave a cry of fear, bringing up the cutter to take a swipe, but the larger creature veered past him and leapt at the dog that had charged in from behind. The two collided with vicious growls and howls. Another rushed in and grabbed the one who had leapt to help him. He killed it. And another, while the last two rolled around on the ground, blood spraying.
Then the littler creature rushed forward, yapping. A puppy, and he suspected the little thing was going to try and help his mother. Jared grabbed him and the little thing wiggled and yipped -- and didn't bite him.
It was too late to save the mother, but she took the other one with her. In a moment they were both dead, wounds torn open, but the bleeding slowed and stopped. No life left.
He still held the puppy, a shaggy-haired little thing. It whined. He started to put it down, but another dog howled not far away.
The puppy wouldn't survive.
He couldn't say why he took the puppy back with him to the ship. Why he fed the little thing. Why he felt better having him there. Then he remembered Robis's last words again. Find someone you can trust for a partner. He thought maybe he had.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Flash Friday # 98: Symbol

    "You realize what this means, your highness?" Kirden asked with a soft, sweet voice as he leaned closer to the young man on the throne. "There are no more unicorns. The prophecy, I fear, is coming to pass."
Amaro stood to the right of the throne with Master Teland, the elder mage. Amaro had never liked Kirden, and liked the man even less today, as Kirden stared intently at the king, waiting for him to speak.
King Charis gave the man a frown. "Not all dead," he replied. "I had a report of one in the Fardells just yesterday."
Kirden frowned. "We can only hope that's true, sire," he said with a bow of his head.
Amaro had the feeling Kirden didn't hope for the unicorns at all, but that was no secret. He didn't want to see Kirden displace the king, but if the unicorns -- the very symbols of the peace and prosperity of the royal family -- were gone, then the family that had ruled for five hundred years must step aside.
The prophecy was coming true. A member of the royal family must lead a unicorn through the town once every fifty years at the great celebration to renew their hold on the land.
The king dismissed the court. Amaro went with Teland, feeling the weight of the pronouncements. The thought of such drastic change --
Teland caught him by the arm. "We have to move quickly before Kirden can kill the last unicorn."
The words startled him on several levels; first that Kirden would do such a thing, which was beyond evil since the unicorns could curse the land. But second, that the two of them might have some way of catching a creature that could only be controlled by a member of the royal family.
Teland ordered horses from startled stable boys. Mages weren't apt to go anywhere fast.
They were out of the castle grounds before Amaro could think of a question to ask. Then they were in the town, and Teland lifted his hand for silence.
They were heading, Amaro realized, for the Fardells. And how far behind them would be Kirden?
"Your grandfather was King Mepin," Teland suddenly said when they reached the open road. "You know the stories about him and other women? They were true. One daughter grew up working in the castle. She married a bright boy who unfortunately died in a border skirmish. The mages agreed to take you in when you were born, and she went to live in a country village, away from everything that reminded her of what she'd lost. It was not an easy choice for her, but a good one. We've made sure she is happy. And we knew who -- what you were."
He rode on, staring at the man.
"Royal blood," he finally said.
Teland nodded. "You are going to help keep your cousin on the throne. Kirden wants to use an old prophecy to take power. He really should have considered who created the prophecy to begin with and what we would do to proect it."
"Of course. When the Royal Family came to power a lot of people claimed to be one of the line. Mages created the prophecy and the spell that tied the unicorns to the royal house. Unicorns weren't bothered by it. They got to parade around once every ten years, which they rather enjoyed. No one considered how killing the unicorns would be the easy answer to gaining the throne since that would doom the land."
"Fools," Amaro mumbled.
Teland agreed.
He'd have to come to terms with everything else later. He suspected the mages may have tampered to get him in their hands. He'd had a good life, so he had to weigh that against the fact he was about to make Kirden his enemy. Well, he didn't much like the man anyway.
Fardells was, actually, quite close. They arrived at the large, open land before noon.
"Off the horse and walk out ahead of me," Teland said, glancing over his shoulder. "Our hope is that Kirden believes he has time as long as the King doesn't leave to gather the unicorn."
Amaro was glad enough to be off the horse since he'd rarely gone anywhere in his nineteen years of life. Now he limped out into open ground, wondering how to get a unicorn --
No need to worry. He'd barely gone a couple yards before one stepped out of the trees, the glow from the horn drawing his attention. And another. And four more. The largest walked straight to him and lowered his head.
Someone should have told him they could speak. He wouldn't have made the funny little yelp.
"You are not who we expected," the unicorn said. And then, after the yelp -- "Is there a problem?"
"No, fine. I'm not what I expected either. What now?"
"You lead us to town and I have a very pointed discussion with Lord Kirden," he said. He turned a little and with a twist of his head, indicated a long deep cut in his side.
"I can help," Amaro said and spread healing magic over the wound.
"Oh much nicer, yes. Mage huh? But not King -- not from the way you're dressed."
"My cousin is still the king. I'm just as happy to have it stay that way."
"Wise," the unicorn said. "Let's go talk to Kirden, shall we?"
Amaro suspected unicorns were a bit bloodthirsty.
Unfortunately, the unicorns didn't get their chance at Kirden, who had barely started along the trail when he spotted the group approaching town. He turned tail and ran away from the castle.
They had a good celebration that year. King Charis and Amaro agreed not to make anything of their blood relationship, but they became good friends. The unicorns liked him as well, and for as long as the two lived, the kingdom had peace and prosperity.
Kirden didn't do nearly as well after the unicorns and mages cursed him.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Flash Friday # 97: The Guardian's Duty

A bridge stood at the far side of the village, little more than a single footpath across the dangerous river, but ornate in the way elves did all work. Glyphs were carved into the columns rising up to a roof, and at night the bridge glowed softly.
 The guardian was supposed to keep anyone from crossing over into the fae world, which stood on the other side, behind a veil of moving colors so no human ever saw those lands. Tall, ancient and ageless, he had kept the post for as long as humans had been settled on the other side of the bridge. He might have been made of stone; magic kept him powerful and unchanging, and he never left his post, standing there in his eldrich armor, only the bare hint of his face seen beneath the helm.
He said nothing. He did nothing. He simply waited and if anyone moved to cross the bridge he stopped them. Some said he'd killed a few brave (or very stupid) men who had tried to cross to raid the elf lands about fifty years ago. No one had made a serious attempt to cross since then.
Things had changed.
Drusina stood by her brother. Behind them gathered no more than forty others, the last survivors of Elfbridge Village. And behind them rose a wall of flame as everything they knew was destroyed by the barbarians.
"Kill us or let us through," Drusina said. She held her sword in hand, ready for the fight. Although she'd trained to be a warrior she had no illusions of winning this battle. However, she couldn't win against a horde of barbarians, either, and this was better than facing the evil behind them. They couldn't cross the wild, raging Green River that surged below the bridge and they couldn't retreat in another direction away from the village because they'd be captured, tortured and slaughtered.
There was only one place left to go. Drusina took the next step forward, putting her feet firmly on the bridge as she brought up the sword.
The guardian moved; with a single fluid flick of his arm and a twist of his body and he had a sword in hand as well. Somehow she had hoped --
"Dru, you can't," Idenis whispered next to her. He was not a warrior, but he had a sword in hand. "This won't work."
"We have to cross," she said. The flames were starting to die behind them. The barbarians would be coming through soon.
So she walked up to the guardian, her sword ready. "We have to cross," she said again.
She looked into the elven face; the eyes blinked, which hadn't in so long she had truly thought of him as a statue, not anything alive. The face looked human, taunting her to expect a human reaction from the plight they faced.
His sword moved to match hers. She leaned in closer.
"Kill them quickly," she said softly. "Don't let them be captured and tortured. You are, truly, our only hope."
He blinked again and when she swung her weapon, he barely brushed the blade aside. He focused past her and she could see the reflection of flames in his eyes.
Then he turned his head and looked over his shoulder towards the fae lands. She could have killed him then, but she had never killed anyone except in a fight, face-to-face. She had not intended to kill the guardian at all.
A child cried in terror and she glanced back to see the first of the barbarians coming through, trying to grab a woman with her child. The attackers were human, but they didn't look it with their wild eyes, shaved heads and filthy clothing.
"Please -" Dru began.
He lowered his sword. "Go past. All of you go past."
For a moment she didn't believe he had truly spoken. Then she shouted and began to wave to the others. If the barbarians had not been coming through, they might have disbelieved as well. Instead, faced with the gruesome deaths they would get from their fellow humans, they dared to hope and rushed across the bridge, frantic and afraid. The guardian stepped aside. They were quick to go, at least, and in the end, only Dru and the Guardian fought back the barbarians. He killed dozens, but she did her share until the enemy finally retreated, deserting the ruins of the village and rushing off to some other place.
She and the guardian crossed the bridge, stepped through the veil and to . . . emptiness. The elven village had gone to ruin, the lovely walls crumbling.
"They left a long time ago," the guardian said softly. "They thought they were too near the humans."
"But you stayed?" she said, stunned.
"I . . . was left behind." His head came up. "I did my duty, but this is a new age. I shall keep the barbarians away. You will be safe here."
He walked back across the veil leaving them to the new village.
She helped others get settled. There was wild food growing nearby, and fresh water. Someone found a horde of old blankets and another some pots and pans. Stunned to be alive, and some grieving for those they'd lost, they settled in and began to think of the future.
Late that night, Dru crossed back over the bridge. The guardian looked at her, surprised.
"My turn to take the watch, friend," she said. She dared to put a hand on his arm and felt a slight tremble beneath the armor. "Go and rest for a while. Meet the others."
He looked at her, confused and troubled. "This is my place."
"No. This is your duty -- but we won't abandon you here. We won't forget you."
She saw a new emotions cross his face: hope and loss, pleasure and fear. He bowed his head and walked back to the place that must have once been his home.
They would all have a different future.

1000 Words

for more fantastic quick reads