Short stories, Flash fiction, and Novel Excerpts

New Moons (Parts 5-7) 200 word series story

In Writing on February 1, 2010 at 1:36 am

I cringed, anticipating the cruel bite of the lash that never landed.  I was free!  My vision blurred; wiping tears and sleep from my eyes, I surveyed my surroundings.  Steel-grey light covered the evergreens around us.  After three months of captivity, using my lore to hide from the depravity around me, this morning felt different, surreal.  The wind held its breath, no creature stirred, and the light cast no shadows.  I held a second chance at life in my hands. 

Ishta slept by the dying fire, Taji at his side.  Her head rested on crossed paws, eyes open, staring at me, through me.  My breath caught as I fought to keep my guilt inside.  I knew there was nothing I could do for those girls, but shame flooded through me.  Tides of humiliation swelled through me, crashing on the barren rocky shores of my soul.  I had to tell someone, get this suffocating band of pain off my chest.

But could I trust Ishta?  Though he rescued us from slavery, what were his motives?  Why would he—after little prodding—help me get most of the way home?

Sometimes trust is taking a leap without knowing where you will land.

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New Moons (6)

200 words

I added three drops of Sylvan ether to the water-skin before handing it to the boy.  He needed to be strong enough to walk on his own.  His time in the wagon made that impossible under normal conditions, but the healing water would help.

In trying to earn the boy’s trust the night before, I gave my name, and received nothing in return.  Though in his position, I’d keep my secrets close too.  God of Moons knew I had my own share so I couldn’t begrudge the boy his.

Gesturing, I caught Taji’s attention.  She seemed fixated on the boy.  I formed a circle with both hands and she bounded into the forest to catch something we could use to break our fast.

The boy, his gaze released, slumped over holding his chest.  A warbling moan escaped him.  He fell to his side and I rushed over to help.  His outstretched arm halted me. 

He panted in the dust a moment, “I’m fine.  Just some cracked ribs.”

The way he held himself—hands under his arms—I had my doubts, but held my tongue.  How could I expect him to reveal his secrets if I kept the truth from him?

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New Moons (7)

200 words

I thought Ishta would ignore me and pick me up.  But he didn’t.  He gave me my space, and earned a measure of trust.

A glint of silver sparkled in the new morning light as he pulled on his boots.  He caught me looking and reaching down, pulled two daggers, and tossed them at my feet.

“These woods can be dangerous,” he said pulling on his pack.

I picked them up while he buckled his sword belt.  I looked for a place on my bedraggled person to put the razor edged blades that wouldn’t cut me to ribbons. 

He chuckled and said, “Sorry, forgot that part.” 

Removing his pack, he fished out two sheathes and a strip of leather.

“Thread those through the—,” he began but stopped at my withering glare.  “Right.  Well, I guess you know what to do then.”

I watched him through lowered lashes while I tied the leather throng around my waist.  He cut a dashing figure watching the surrounding forest even as he rolled his sleeves to the elbows.  I tried to think of something witty to say when Taji’s heart-rending yelps cut through the morning mist.  Her cries of anguish sounded shockingly human.

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New Moons (Parts 1-4, 200 words each)

In Writing on January 30, 2010 at 2:43 pm

The wooden planks of the wagon bed creaked as the horse pulled us along.  My hands, chained to the floor between my feet, were rubbed raw; clear liquid oozed from under my shackles.  I raised my head, careful not to meet the eyes of the other children; even among slaves, there was a pecking order.

I rested my head against the black pitted bars of our cage, trying to suck in some clean air.  The Master gave us no food and precious little water; barely enough to sustain life let alone bathe.  Without sustenance, I wouldn’t be able to keep up my illusion.  Just the thought of my deception being revealed was enough to make my heart race. 

My gaze drifted over to the girl next to me, and the dark blemish beneath her.  The wood, painted black repeatedly with her blood, refused to take any more offering.  Pooling, the viscous liquid ran along the narrow grooves in the floor.  The lurching stop of the wagon sent rippling waves over the surface of the crimson stain.  The Master cursed, then shouted,

“Out of the way traveler!  You block the King’s Highway!”

“Aye, I’ve been waiting for you,” came the reply.

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“There’s no profit for you here, brigand,” the slaver drew himself up, puffing out his chest.

“Ah, I see you misunderstand the situation,” I said shaking my head.  “You see, it’s not your money I’m after.”

The slaver narrowed his eyes, hiding them in folds of glistening fat.  Gesturing with the first two fingers on my right hand, I called Taji from the edge of the trees.  She padded on soft paws to my side.  Her fur, gilded by the setting sun, brushed my hand.  The slaver’s horse snorted and shook its head, but the hold on its reins kept the beast in check.

“What are you talking about?”  He demanded, smoothing his greasy hair.

I clenched my fist.  Taji bounded from my side, leapt over the snorting horse, and grabbed the slaver in her jaws.  The screaming fat man and the ominously silent dog fell with a muffled thump. I caught the horse’s reins before it bolted, while the slaver gurgled as he died in the ditch.  I looked into the wagon; dirty faces peered back at me.

A child pressed his face to the bars, croaking, “Let us out.”

Not one to be a pushover, I asked, “Why?”

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I couldn’t answer the man as he absently scratched the gold and silver dog behind the ears.  Tears burned in my eyes as hope shattered like glass, cutting painfully into my soul. 

The man grimaced, threw back his cloak, and walked away.  The dog, sat staring up through the bars.  Those knowing amber orbs held me; I sat captivated, even as the iron door screamed open on tortured hinges.  I could not tear my gaze away.  Long cramped muscles, demanding surcease, tightened my body into a ball, forcing me to the floor, and into oblivion.

I awoke disoriented, with a musky scent surrounding me.  White bandages covered my wrists as I pushed a heavy cloak from my face.  I turned; searching for the food I smelled cooking, but found my savior.  He passed me a plate and I shoveled food in my mouth with both hands.

“Easy, it’ll come up if you eat too fast,” he admonished.  “Here, drink this.”

I set the plate down reluctantly. 

“Where are the others?”  I asked.

“Gone,” he said.

“Can you help me get home?”  When he didn’t answer I added, “You’ll be rewarded.” 

“Only as far as Gorstauk,” he replied after a moment.

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I wrapped the sleeping child in my cloak again and set him down by the warmth of the fire.

“Am I doing the right thing old girl?”  I asked Taji.  She lifted her head from her paws and nodded.

“You sure?”  She cocked her head to the side, snorted, and lay back down.

“Okay, we’ll keep searching then.”  She raised an eyebrow. 

“Do you always have to have the last word?”  I asked, she huffed and turned away.

Turning back to the fire, I watched the boy sleep.  Curled in a ball, hands tucked between his knees, he shivered and shook his head repeatedly in negation.  Could this boy help me find the one for whom I searched?

Three months since the girl ran away from home, and no telling how long with the slaver. 

A chance remark in the last village led me to believe that this slaver was the one.  But there had been no sign of the girl. 

With the surrounding countryside war-torn, the flesh peddlers found easy pickings.  The human vultures circled around misery and death, feasting on the suffering of others. 

If I didn’t find the girl soon, my honor would be lost with her.

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Heart shackles, Mind chains

In Writing on January 21, 2010 at 11:47 pm

Lynn stepped back, her bloody kai held in a loose grip.  She looked on, unmoved by the figure whimpering on the wet pavement before her; she would subjugate herself no longer.  The pall over her soul lifted a little more.  Every time she stepped away from her tortured past, moved to pull herself from the pit she allowed others to put her in, her soul grew from the struggles to take back her life.

Her psyche still carried a stain, like a gangrenous stench lingering unnoticed by those around her.  She would no longer allow what went before to dictate her choices however.  Life was effort, a battle to prove herself daily.  From here out, she would revel in the marvelous joys around her.  This was her life, her choice, and her mind.  Woes betide those who would take them from her.

Without rancor, she tossed the kai beside the man, turned her back, and walked away.  Her heart held no pity, sorrow, nor anger at he father; she forgave him.  He would have power over her no longer.  Her life was her own; she was on her way to live it, her way.  Finally unfettered, she smiled, for the first time.