Thursday, July 30, 2020

Flash Fiction #418/Later

The became foul, and the earth grew less fallow.  Storms and earthquakes destroyed cities and ruined farmlands.

A remnant of humanity -- their old wars forgotten -- retreated deep into the earth.  They devised technology to help them survive the coming years ... the coming generations. It was a harsh life, but they tapped aquifers for water and lived mostly on fungus.

At last, they dared to step back out of the caves, and they found a lush green world filled with new species and old.

They also found bears with swords and raccoons with bows.  This time Mother Earth would fight back.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Flash Fiction # 417 -- Lost in Elsewhere/27 (END)

Darman lost control as he yowled in pain.  Edmond darted away and took a running leap back into the air and out of Darman's reach.  The fae was far beyond reasoning now, and it didn't help that the flying monkeys pelted him with more apples.

We still didn't have the upper hand.  Momba tried a direct attack, and he waved her away so that she flew backward.  I didn't see where she landed, but her magic had disappeared, too.  Darman had rage on his side.  I tried to call up wrath of my own, but that wasn't the kind of magic I used.  It just made it harder for me to concentrate, and I nearly lost Lord Snow because I wasn't focused on helping others.

No matter what I did, I could see no way to win.

Luckily for all of us, I had allies.

Edmond had gone through the gate.  I don't know how he found Maggie, Five, and my father so quickly, but they surged through the opening in such a blaze of magic that I gave a cry of despair before I realized they came to help us.  I stepped back.  Then I went to my knees and watched in numb amazement as Maggie flew upward and tossed chains of magic down at Cayman. At the same time, my father enveloped his brother in a glow of powerful magic so bright I couldn't see within it.  Cayman had not been ready for them, and they captured Cayman and the dire wolves in moments.  What I had counted as lost a few minutes before was now won.

"I lost," I said, looking up at Maggie.  "If you hadn't arrived --"

"You held him.  We were hunting -- could sense trouble -- and then Edmond started shouting -- but you held him.  If he'd gotten the sword, we never would have taken him down.  Come on.  Let's go home."

I let her help me back up.  "No more side trips?  No more surprises?"

"I hope not."

"Momba --" I said, glancing around.  Lord Snow stood at my side.  Five sat on Maggie's shoulder, and Edmond swept down, grabbed at me, and arranged himself across the back of my neck with a contented sigh.

Momba walked up to us and gave a nod.  She looked a little bedraggled, but I saw a fire in her eyes when she looked at Cayman draped in a hundred magical chains.

"Thank you for your help," I said with a bow of my head.  "I'll do what I can for your cause."

"Good then," she said with a smile.  She looked around.  "I better get the monkeys back, so it's not too late to watch Godzilla vs. Mothra."

The monkeys let out peals of pleasure and took to the sky.  Edmond watched them go.

"Not bad guys, really," he admitted.

Maggie led us through the gate and back to the Elsewhere I knew.  I could feel the difference even before I saw the castle on a hill to the right.  I wish it had been closer.  If we hadn't been so near the gate still, I would have just laid down in the grass and slept.

I did sheath the sword.

Maggie said little as we hiked toward the castle.  I sensed my father and Cayman coming through the gate, but he took Cayman somewhere else, and I drew my hand back from the sword.

Dinner, and the kittens, were waiting for us.  I assured Six more than once that this had not been his fault.  He told us all about the person who had given him the book and pointed out the spell.

"Sounds like Darman to me," Maggie said.  "I'm going to talk to some of the staff.  We need to find out how he got in.  Even if he's captured, it's still not safe."

I nodded and left her to it.  I honestly didn't have the strength or ambition to get up and go do anything useful.  I had put Akanthursta on the table, and it had spread frost around it.  I didn't have to warn anyone else away from it, either.  One glance at the weapon, and they wisely stayed clear of it.

Unlike me.

Lord Darman, my father -- I could not get used to that -- came and sat across the table from me.  He did nod toward Akanthursta, but he did not try to touch it.  I had the feeling I was not going to be able to give it over to him.

"I am not surprised that the sword chose you," he said, confirming my belief.  "It comes with responsibilities, too."

"I need to know more.  About the sword, about magic, about Elsewhere -- everything."

He nodded agreement.  "I thought we had more time, and I wouldn't have to push you.  We'll talk more about it tomorrow, Mark.  Meet me in the library when you are ready.  I'll know when you get there -- sleep late if you can.  That will help."

"Yes, thank you."

He smiled suddenly, and for the first time, I thought I saw a bit of myself in him.  "You did well.  Maggie and Five filled me in on most of the adventure.  You have the right instincts."

"We need to talk about Oz," I said and met his look.  "I promised I would discuss the matter with you."

"Yes, of course.  I think it is time we reconsider the Oz situation.  We'll discuss that as well.  Good night, Mark."

"Good night ... father."

He grinned and left whistling a tune that I recognized.  Changes -- who would have guessed he was a Bowie fan?  Maybe we would have something to talk about besides magic and battles, after all.

Time to head to bed.  Lord Snow was asleep in the cooler air by the open doorway, but it took me a moment to find Edmond.  He and the kittens had curled up in a basked by the hearth, all of them asleep.

Though Edmond's tail twitched as he dreamed about adventures.

The End

Friday, July 17, 2020

Flash Fiction # 416 -- Lost in Elsewhere/26

Staring up at the sky, I had two distinct thoughts.

Help has arrived!

Hell -- help is a flying cat and monkeys.

The screams had gotten Darman's attention.  I probably should have leapt for him, magic sword and all, but the wolves were starting to make ominous noises.  Lord Snow had his ears back and had crouched down and prepared to leap.

Edmond and his companions had their own idea of what to do.  They started to throw things, pelting wolves and Darman.

Throwing apples.

Momba gave a shout of delight and a cackle of a laugh that could have come straight out of the Wizard of Oz movie.   Then she started throwing some magic of her own, and both Storm and I backed up and got out of the way.

Darman grew enraged, though.  I knew his temper, and I knew they didn't have many apples left.  Momba had taken on the dire wolves.  I'm not sure why she didn't go for Darman himself, but the wolves were dangerous enough on their own.

When I saw Darman aim his hand at the sky, I yelled and darted straight at him.

That was what he had expected.

Whatever magic he had at hand hit me like fire lodging in my body.  I cried out and went to my knees, blinded by the red and white lights surrounding me.  I think I cried out.  I thought I heard Edmond yelling my name, and I feared he had even come close enough to touch the magic.  I thought he howled in pain.

And that ... that angered me.  Anger is not my best emotion, but there is no doubt that anger can bring strength.  I also became aware that one part of my body was not burning.

I still had hold of the ice sword.

I brought it up and cut away part of the fire lights.  Was ice stronger than fire?  I didn't know.  What I did have, though, was my own determination to get out of this trap and help the others.  I had to make sure that Edmond was alright.  Momba had magical power of her own.  Lord Snow -- I was never sure if he had more power than just to speak or not.  He was my companion, as well.

I would not let them fall because I had leapt at the wrong time.

I cut more into the fire lights.  I could breathe a little better.  I was making progress, but I was also aware that Darman had started moving closer to me.  Had my companions failed?

The spell fell away, but that was not my doing.  There was no battle to end the spell, either.  Darman had dropped the magic, and he'd done so because he stood right in front of me.  I could still hear Lord Snow fighting, and I thought I sensed Momba's magic -- but I had lost the battle.

"Finally, I can be done with you, and I get a pretty prize as well," Darman said and smiled.  It was not a friendly look.  I tried to struggle back to my feet, but none of my body wanted to work yet.

Well, all except for the hand and arm that held the sword.  I bowed my head as he took another step closer, and I focused on the weapon.  Knowing Darman has well as I did, I knew one thing -- he was going to take the sword before he killed me because he would want me to know how badly I had lost.

Akanthursta throbbed in my hand.  I thought the sword might have taken some damage as well.  I also thought it had kept me alive, and that was the real reason Darman had dropped the spell.  He could not win over the sword, but he could take it from me.


Darman took another step closer.  I did not look up.  Instead, I kept my head bowed and focused on his feet and the shadow of his movement.  I knew when he was close enough to reach.  He paused.  I felt the surge of magic in him, ready to kill me outright -- ah, but he couldn't while I had the sword.  So he must take Akanthursta first.

He reached.

I fell backward and swept the sword up at him.  He leapt back, but the edge of the blade caught his hand -- just the merest touch, but he called out in pain.  He held his wounded hand, and I could see that the fingers were limp and blue.  The ice had not killed him, but it had given him a wound from which I didn't think he would quickly recover.

He backed away in haste.  I somehow got to my feet, though I didn't think I would stand there for long.  Darman looked much the same, though.  His dire wolves had backed up behind him, three still on their feet, but none of them without claw marks.  I heard Lord Snow give a low, ominous rumble of a growl, so he was still alive.  Momba and the monkeys were to my left.  I had a peripheral sense of them there and as tense as Lord Snow. 

Edmond?  I desperately wanted to look for Edmond, but I knew that he'd attack the moment I turned away from Darman.  So, I kept my eyes on him and matched his hatred with my anger.

"You won't survive," Darman snarled.  He carefully lowered his wounded hand to his side, but even that must have hurt.  "You won't survive, you little bastard half-human --"

His good hand had lifted, and the power he brought to his fingers was enough to almost blind me.  I lifted Akanthursta, but the sword felt heavy, and maybe not as cold as it had been.  I didn't think I could hold the attack off, and Darman was not playing games this time.  He meant to kill me.

Darman's hand came up, his chin lifted --

And Edmond bit him on the ankle.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Flash Fiction #415 -- Lost in Elsewhere/25

I looked up into the sky.  No flying monkeys that I could spot.  Momba gave a yell of warning, and Lord Snow had already leapt forward and slashed one wolf across the face.

"Fly, Edmond!" I ordered.  "Get out --"

"I can help!"

"Yes!  Fly through and find us help!"


He took off from my shoulder, a sudden push that almost put me off balance this time.  I had one wolf nearly to me, though, and I didn't have much I could do.

Except to draw Akanthursta.

The sword came free with a sound like a bell, the icy feel numbing my fingers already.  I hoped I wouldn't have to draw it -- that I could get home to my father and figure it out.

But I was not going to let Lord Snow take on this battle by himself.  I wasn't sure what Momba was doing, but Snow was well into the mess, and three to one was not the odds I like to see.

One of the dire wolves saw me coming and spun.  I slashed at the wolf, and the blade cut into his neck.  The creature froze -- really froze, with a bit of fog rolling off of him.

I backed up in haste.

Which saved me.  I saw movement at the gate and thought it might be Edmond going through -- but no, it was someone coming out.

Darman.  My uncle -- I should have expected him with the wolves showed up.  In fact, I should have considered him behind all this trouble from the start.

Darman's smile brightened when he saw me.  He took one step forward -- and then saw the sword.  His face turned pale white, and he took a step backward, shaking his head in denial.

I felt a surge of elation and almost headed straight to Darman. If I could take him down, all of our troubles would be over.  The sword even seemed to want that confrontation, pulling me --

 However, I caught a glimpse of Edmond trying to circle behind to get through the gate, and that quelled my enthusiasm.  I had others to protect.  While getting Darman's attention was a good plan, attacking without any other thought would not help.

The sword felt otherwise.

I reminded the sword I could put it back in the sheath and not pull it ever again.

I had always thought the tales of bloodthirsty intelligent swords as kind of silly -- but now I understood.  The sword had no other purpose.  I'd have to find it a hobby.

Darman backed up close to the gate.  Edmond would not get through, and I was glad to see him curve away, though I dared not watch where he went.

"It doesn't matter," Darman said suddenly.  I could still only see him as Sheriff Creston from my home town.  I'd never liked the man, and finding out he'd been trying to take over that realm -- no, I didn't like him any better now.

I'd killed his son, who had been a were-creature.  Oh, but not his son, after all, just another of his many lies.  Darman was the source of the trouble that had driven me to Elsewhere.  I didn't regret that part -- but he continued to hound me, even before I knew about my father.

And that, really, was what this was about.

"You are trying to distract my father," I said.  Darman looked at me, his hands starting to lift.  "Don't do that.  Don't think about trying for me.  I have friends.  I have power.  I am not going to let you --"

"Shut up, you stupid half breed child."  Anger rose in his face, and power showed in lines of light around his hands.  "You have no idea what I can do or what I intend to do.  You have already played into my hands.  I expected Glinda, to be honest, but Momba will do.  Once she's gone, it won't take much to take control of Oz."

Momba made a slight hissing noise and started to step forward.  Darman's head came up as he focused on her, the power in his hands growing.  She was doing the same, and I felt like I was in the middle of a lightning storm.

I didn't know which one would win.  I didn't want to take the chance.  Lord Snow still held off the other two Dire wolves, pacing back and forth by the one that still stood there, frozen.

"Momba -- we don't dare let him have a chance at taking Oz," I said softly.  I had to lower the sword, and I dared a glance her way, though I never lost awareness of Darman and what he was doing.  "You need to get away from here --"

"Or maybe she needs only to walk over and join my side," Darman said.  "We might find a common cause."

"You have turned on your own family?  Shall I take you at your word that you'll stand by a stranger?" Momba asked with a tilt of her head.

Darman laugh.  "Good.  I would have hated to think you were that stupid.  I would have had to kill you the moment you were in range, of course."

"Of course.  Go back and make trouble for your own kind.  You will not have Oz."

"I haven't even tried for it yet," Darman said.  His hands did lift, and the light sped out -- but I had brought up the sword, and the spell shattered against it, leaving shards of bright ice falling everywhere.

Darman frowned, but I knew that had only been a test.

I backed up a step, Momba at my right, Lord Snow at my left.  The sword had numbed my arm, but it was all we had to fight against the wolves and Darman.  I could not let him win and take Oz.

Something screamed in the air above us, and we all looked up in shock.

Edmond and the flying monkeys had arrived.

Friday, July 03, 2020

Flash Fiction # 414 -- Lost in Elsewhere/24

So, there I was in Oz, dealing with the Wicked Witch of the West.  Better her than Glinda, who was a bit over the rainbow -- and I wasn't Dorothy.  Apparently, she only dealt well with pretty girls and yappy dogs.

I had two cats.  I had the feeling Glinda wasn't a cat person.

I wasn't convinced when the Wicked Witch of the West said she would help us get home.  My knowledge of Momba was limited to movies and reading the books to my younger half-siblings.  Momba was not what I expected.

She made peace with the trees before we left.  The trees did not throw anything at us, and I took that as a good sign.

We didn't go very far before she led us off the yellow brick road and down a different trail, this one well used though we saw no one. 

Lord Snow gave me a wary look as well.  I wasn't sure how Edmond felt, but he hadn't suggested we run and hide yet.  Should I trust either of them?

I had learned many things since my first steps into Elsewhere, and mostly, you had to think and rethink my assumptions.  I knew, for instance, that I could trust Edmond to be loyal and crazy.  He was apt to do something odd at any moment, so he got nervous every time he even so much as twitched.

Lord Snow would help me as best as he could.  He seemed far more stable than Edmond, but he also served Lord Ice, not me.  I could not guess where helping me, and his loyalty to Lord Ice might not be the same thing.

I wish Maggie was still with us.  And even Five.  I tried to keep that worry buried back in my mind, but I had no idea where they had gone and if I should go hunt for them.  I couldn't manipulate this leaping from one storybook land to another to find them, either.

If I got back to Elsewhere, someone would be able to help me find Maggie and Five.  I had to believe that and walk along with the Wicked Witch.

I waited for trouble to start.  I couldn't walk far anywhere without running into some sort of trouble.  I was beginning to twitch more than Edmond.

Momba pointed out a few things along the way, mostly distant villages and a couple farms.  I could tell that she really liked Oz, and I didn't think it had anything to do with whatever power she held in this place.

We stopped in one small town.  No munchkins, but there was a charming inn.  We were served quickly, too.  Should I worry about the food? Lord Snow and Edmond ate without comment, so I decided to trust their judgment.

"Until now, I really hadn't considered how new you are to this whole world outside of the Earth you knew," Momba said.  She tore at a piece of bread and dipped it in honey, nibbling it with a contemplative look.  "Maybe it isn't fair to put this on you."

"I said I would talk to my father.  He may not listen to me, you know -- for the same reason you just pointed out.  I'm new at this, and I don't know what to trust.  I'll leave it to him to sort out."

She nodded, clearly contemplating what to do next.  I hoped that didn't include just walking away and leaving me lost in Oz.  At least I still had Snow and Edmond, though.  Not alone.

We left a little later and walked along a rustic fence that held back various farm animals.  I'd seen the like not far from home, back in another realm.  It made me relax again.

The sheep were black-faced and cute ... and I began to think she had purposely taken me along this path to show me the more mundane side of Oz.  I was kind of amused and wondered how long we were going to walk.

No one seemed to be in much of a hurry in Oz.  No singing and dancing along the way.  We finally passed some people heading the other way. They knew Momba by name, and she knew them.  Lord Snow drew a few startled looks, but mostly because they knew who he was and were surprised to find him on a little path in the middle of Oz.

Momba had stopped talking for the last mile.  She looked bothered.  I hoped that didn't mean we were about to find more trouble.

Then the path took a sharp turn, and there stood a gate, much like the one that had first brought me to Elsewhere.  I wondered if it would take me to that same spot?  How could I get back to the castle from there?

"Something is not right," Momba said with a hand lifted to stop us from going forward.

I wasn't surprised.

I even dared to lift my hand and try to feel out what the problem might be.  I couldn't see beyond the gate, except for a hint of movement in the darkness.  I used only a little magic, but the gate flared at my touch, and we all backed up in haste. 

I held my breath.  Nothing happened.  "There's a trap on it," I said.  Oh yes, I had learned how to feel out traps.  "Strong fae magic, too.  Don't go any closer, Lord Snow.    Let's figure this one out before we charge in."

"Ha," Lord Snow said, but he did step back with his tail twitching.  Edmond had moved to sit on my shoulder rather than draped around my neck.  "I can sense some creature -- or creatures on the other side."

"Waiting for us to come through," I said with a nod.

Apparently, they decided not to wait.  Four huge Dire Wolves broke through the magic at the gate and charged us.

Where are the flying monkeys when you need them?...