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May 23, 2017

Flash fiction challenge – X vs Z redux

Filed under: flash fiction challenge — Tags: , — Eva Therese @ 8:12 pm

Flash fiction challenge as always courtesy of the great bearded sage, Chuck Wendig. I rolled the RNG and got Demons vs Fairies. I wanted to make it a kind of cold war spy games story with some banter, but it took about six seconds for it to turn sombre.

 

Youna made her way through the park, a spring in her step and a lightness in her chest. Living in the city, with all its iron and steel meant that she was always exhausted, always hurting. Being in the park gave her a respite, softened the pain to a dull ache.

Quintin was waiting for her on a bench by the pond, surrounded by hopeful ducks. He turned to look at her even though he couldn’t have heard her approach. He had one eye missing, covered by an eyepatch. Since he should have been able to heal any injury not instantly fatal, the missing eye had to be a punishment of some sort. Youna had never asked.

His gaze was steady but weary as if he was expecting a trap; she knew she looked at him the same way. But, while one of them would doubtlessly betray the other one someday, today, as the saying goes, was not that day.

 

Quintin scooted over to make room for Youna as she sat down next to him on the bench. She looked thin and pale and washed-out, having no Glamour to spare on her looks, except what was strictly needed to make her look human enough to blend in. None of the faes living in the city had that kind of power anymore, most of it was spent simply on keeping themselves upright and what little was left was needed elsewhere. The ones still in the Courts might have, but only because they never came to the real world anymore. Instead, they sent faes like Youna to fight a losing battle against demons like Quintin. In that way, he mused, they were very much like the demon princes, sitting on their thrones in Hell, making grand plans and leaving others to carry them out or to deal with the fallout when they went wrong.

You’re staring,” Youna interrupted his train of thoughts.

You look awful,” he said, bluntly.

Her face fell. “I actually felt good going into the park. No. Not good.” She shook her head. “But not quite as bad.”

How long have you been living here?”

Eighty years, I think. It all kind of blurs together.”

You shouldn’t stay for that long. It’s not good for you.”

She shrugged. An extremely eloquent gesture, which conveyed all she had to say on the subject, which could be boiled down to ‘I don’t get to decide’.

 

Quintin’s expression of concern made her uncomfortable much more than his remark about her looks. She looked down at her feet, dragging the toes of her sandals through the grass.

I understand,” he said.

In a way, he did. He was also just a grunt sent out to fight a battle on behalf of a master he had probably never even seen and certainly never met in any meaningful sense of the word. That was what had started their tentative friendship decades ago, the feeling they both had, that they were closer to the soldier standing in front of them, than to the distant generals.

And in a way, he didn’t understand, couldn’t understand, because his side was winning. At least it was winning against her side. The battle against the angels was locked in something of a standstill and there might come a day when he would understand perfectly what she felt. But today was not that day.

I just wish that I could do something to help you.”

Youna sat frozen for a moment, then turned her head sharply to look at him. “No!” she said. “No favours given or owed. No bargains.”

He nodded, didn’t try to argue. He knew what a bargain meant to a fae and why she would rather suffer than let something like that come between them.

She looked down at her feet again. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to snap.”

It’s alright. Should have thought that one through.” He looked thoughtful. “We should have been allies, you know. I don’t mean us two, but the faes and the demons. We have no real conflict of interest since we only want the souls of humans and you only want to toy with them while they are alive. And we could have used your help against the angels, instead of squandering our resources fighting you.”

We have too much in common,” replied Youna. “Like arrogance.”

Quintin nodded. “Pigheadedness.”

And we take ourselves way, way too seriously.”

 

The tense moment past, they sat in comfortable silence. When Quintin looked at Youna again, she had closed her eyes and was soaking in the sunlight. She looked as content as he had ever seen her, as she was ever likely to look. She also looked so ill. If she felt better in the park, he didn’t want to think about how she looked in the city. He thought about it anyway. The name ‘the fair folk’ seemed like a joke and a tasteless one at that.

She was wasting away. She needed to go back to the undying lands or at the very least into the woodlands and even then it might be too late. But the kings and queens of the different courts would never allow her to retreat from the lost battle.

Youna was dying. The thought made his chest tighten. He’d give her a couple more years and then she’d simply dissolve into mist and float away on the breeze. Unless she had been hunted down by some of the more zealous demons who took it upon themselves to pick off the few remaining faes. He toyed with the idea of sending one of them after her, end her suffering now, but he couldn’t be sure that the demon wouldn’t try to capture and interrogate her. No, if he wanted to give her a quick end, he would have to do it himself. He looked at her intently; she was half-dozing relaxed and unprepared right next to him. It would be easy. If he did it fast enough and precisely enough, she wouldn’t even know what he had done

But today was not that day.

Youna opened her eyes. “It’s too late for us,” she said. “But maybe not too late for you.”

I’m not following?”

It’s to the late for the fae. We’re all either in exile or we’ll be dead before long, one way or another.”

Quintin felt a stab of guilt as if she had somehow read his mind, but she continued without looking at him.

But you don’t have to make the same mistake with the angels. Don’t eradicate another race or let yourselves be eradicated. Make peace with them.”

This suggestion was so outrageous that for a moment Quintin just sat there, before finally answering. “That’s … impossible. We’ve been at war for thousands of years. Besides, I’m a lowly soldier, what can I even do?”

You have time on your side. And if someone centuries ago had told me to strive for peace, who knows where I would have ended up? Besides, I have something for you.”

She took his hand.

Quentin tried to pull it back, but the grip of her small, frail hand was suddenly as powerful of the iron that was poisoning her.

No gifts,” he whispered. “Not favours owed.” He looked into her eyes as she placed something in his palm, pleading with her to take it back.

Oh, but that’s the beauty of it. You can’t owe favours to a dead fae.” She smiled and then, as he watched, she melted away like a mirage, leaving only her clothes on the park bench next to him. For a moment he was too stunned to do anything, then he looked down. A ball of soft greenish light laid safely cupped in his hand. The last of her Glamour. There wasn’t a lot, but more than he would have guessed she had as a last reserve. Not a lot, but enough to make a difference if he spent it carefully. He knew that the sensible thing to do would be to ignore her wish and just use the Glamour to get ahead. It wasn’t like he couldn’t use the edge it would give him in the cutthroat world that was the demon hierarchy. And yet… And yet… He put the little ball of light in his pocket. He would have to decide how to use it, but he didn’t have to decide right now. Not today.

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June 12, 2015

Flash Fiction Challenge – The Random Title Jamboree

Filed under: flash fiction challenge — Tags: , — Eva Therese @ 9:26 am

New Flash Fiction Challenge, courtesy of Chuck Wendig. I rolled a 15 and a 15 because random number generators are lazy and got Back Country Junction.


The road ran between two villages and when you followed it past the last of the houses and out onto the moor or into the small forest – depending on which direction you were coming from – it narrowed to nothing more than a track.

Both villages were small, but both also boasted a smithy, a holy man and a doctor. Thus, neither place had anything the other wanted and the only people who went from one to the other, except the odd traveling salesman, were young people who had met each other at one of the fairs and wanted to get further acquainted. The villages were close enough that in the summertime, if you started early in the morning, you could walk from one to another, do your business and get back before sundown, but later in the year, it often happened that one of the aforementioned young people stayed too late and had to stay the night so as not to get caught out in the dark.

There were no robbers on the moor, no dangerous beast in the forest. But there was the junction. In the middle of nowhere, the track was crossed by another. People had tried following this other track in both directions and they said that on either side it went on for some miles and then faded and disappeared. But sometimes, people tried to follow the track and were never seen or heard from again.

People said that it was the preferred route of the fair folk visiting their neighbors, which just happened to intersect with the road between the two villages and very pragmatically they also said that as long as no-body used the road or in other ways bothered the fair folk, they would leave the villagers alone. So no-one used the intersecting track and no-one went from one village to the next at night and they were safe and in the end, they started to forget why they too these precautions and the cross road and the fair folk became nothing more that a tale to tell in the long winter evenings.

Maria carefully lifted Lily’s hand away from her waist and crawled out from under the blanket. Then she carefully tucked the blanket around her little sister, making sure to cover all of her feet. Lily was a light sleeper and if she got cold, she would wake and when she didn’t find Maria there, she would started to cry and wake the rest of their sisters and this wouldn’t do.

Maria slipped on her shoes, while her eyes darted around the room, looking for any sign of movement, but the four other bodies that could be seen in the pale light were all sleeping quietly. One of them, Ella, stirred when she opened the window, but only to turn around and hug her pillow. Maria took one last look and then, before she could change her mind, she tied the end of the rope to the bedpost and climbed out the window.

The Larsson family had seven daughters and in a village where not much happened, it had been the source of and endless stream of mild jibes about how you could set your calender after Eleanor Larsson’s yearly delivery. As they got older the talk had gotten to be more about how sweet and lovely the eldest of the girls, Ida, was. Last year the talk had turned to the young man she had met and fallen in love with, and after a short but hectic courtship they had married and seven months later she had given birth to a healthy boy. But just a month ago Ida’s husband had disappeared, leaving her heartbroken. She had moved back in with her parents, but the gossip was all about how she stayed in the attic with her son and refused to see anyone, just cried her eyes out.

Some of the very old people muttered, that the man had been taken by the fair folk, but vast majority of the village took the cynical view that young Matthew had been more suited as a lover than as a husband and father; that the best Ida could do was to forget about him and find a new kinder man, who would take care of her and the boy. After all she was still sweet and lovely and the fact that she had been able to give birth to a healthy child was not at all a bad thing.

Then rumors started spreading – no-one knew who had first started them, but suddenly they were everywhere – that maybe it was not Matthew who had realized that he was unfit as a husband, but Ida and that she had taken matters into her own hands. Somehow the talk reached even Ida and her family thought that her staying hidden had as much to do with being unable to face the slander as it had with her grief over Matthew.

All lies; Maria knew that. Matthew might be immature and inept in many ways, but he was as fiercely devoted to his wife and child as she was to him. Still, while Matthew was a sweet young man, Maria would never have been out on the moor in the dark for his sake. She was doing this solely for Ida. The loss of Matthew and the lies of the village was killing her, if not literally, then her at least her spirit. And Maria loved her sister far too much to stand by and do nothing.

She found her way carefully in the dark. There was a full moon, which was why she had chosen this night to do this, but she still had to look at the track in front of her to be sure she didn’t lose her way. She walked for hours while the moon rose in the sky and then started to sink again, just as she reached the junction.

Maria looked down, first one road, then the other, trying to decide which one to take, since they both looked the same. Then the wind, which had until then been a soft breeze, rose to a gust which pushed her in the back. And since that was as good a suggestion as any other, Maria went down that way.

In the beginning she was as alone as she had been until now, but not for long. Soon she saw light light shining from behind her and had to resist the urge to turn around. Then figures started to walk past her, wearing lanterns glowing with floating golden lights that did not seem to have any source. They were human looking but all very tall and inhumanly thin. They were beautiful but in the way an orchid was beautiful. There was no warmth in the way they looked.

There were many, apparently they were on their way to a large gathering. None of them looked at Maria as they passed her, but no-one tried to stop her either.

She didn’t know how and when it had happened, but she suddenly realized she was not at the moor. The path in front of her was leading through lush green grass, each leaf bejeweled with dewdrops sparkling in the moonlight.

In front of her was wall about the height of her waist with an opening in it, which the track lead through and one of the fail folk standing guard. Unlike the rest he fixed her with his gaze as she came closer and held up a hand to signal her to stop.

“What are you doing here, human?” he asked, sounding bored. “You are not welcome at our feast.”

“I believe you have my brother-in-law Matthew,” she replied, the hesitated before continuing. “I am here to negotiate his release.”

The fair one looked at her, head cocked to one side. “Very well,” he said, finally. “After all, we could use some extra entertainment tonight. You may enter.”

Maria walked through the opening in the stone wall, heart beating so fast and hard that it felt like it was trying to break open her ribcage from inside and escape. Then she got a look at hear surroundings and forgot everything.

February 12, 2015

Flash Fiction Challenge – The Four Part Story Part One

Filed under: flash fiction challenge — Tags: , , — Eva Therese @ 10:23 am

The is the first part of a story, written for a flash fiction challenge courtesy of Chuck Wendig.


 

The smell hit her while she was still in the hallway. Thick, sickly-sweet, but without the note of iron usually associated with blood. Rather this had a hint of something sharp, maybe alcohol. It smelled, she decided, as cough syrup tasted.

Evelyn ducked under the yellow tape and entered the hotel room. Her eyes were immediately drawn to the bright green spatter on the otherwise pristine bedcover.

She walked around the bed and took in the crime scene, the body lying on the carpet. The back of the head was smashed in, but the face was undamaged. It was a decidedly ugly face. It put Evelyn in mind of Dopey from Snow White if he’d had skin like wrinkly parchment and really ugly teeth.

She looked up and met the gaze of Andrew. His large hands were holding a small pair of tweezers which he was using with surprisingly delicacy to examine the damage.

“What have you got for me?” asked Evelyn.

“Dead for around four hours.” Andrew had lived in Aliceville for the better part of fifteen years, but still retained a hint of a Jamaican accent.

Evelyn nodded. “Fits. Officer Young filled me in. The night porter says he saw the fairy return to the hotel around five in the morning, but didn’t see or hear anything else until half an hour ago, when he heard the cleaning guy scream his head off. I’ll get a full statement later, but I don’t expect much.”

“Cause of death is a single blow to the back of the head. Fairies have more brittle bones than humans, but it would still have taken some force. They haven’t found the murder weapon yet, but I’m thinking a wrench, something like that. Iron of course.”

“Not something normally found in a hotel room, which indicates premeditated.” Evelyn scratched her nose, then snapped on a pair of rubber gloves. She knelt beside the victim and started going through the pockets. The second one yielded a wallet and she pulled out an ID-card. Next to the name ‘Tierny Belenus’ there were two pictures. One of them was a photograph showing the ugly face on the body. The other was a small scan of a rendered drawing of how the fairy would have chosen to look to any humans, while he had still been alive to uphold a glamour. It shoved an eerily beautiful young man with silver hair and striking green eyes.

Evelyn showed the picture to Andrew.

“Hot,” he commented. “You’re thinking crime of passion?”

“Too early to say. But it’s interesting to note that he wasn’t trying to blend in. Apparently, he wasn’t worried about hate crimes.”

“Which means he must have been powerful and thus high up in the hierarchy,” Andrew finished for her.

She nodded and bagged the wallet and the ID-card before getting up to have a look around. She looked in the garbage can and fished out a take-away coffee cup.

“It would seem our fairy had a visitor,” said Andrew and got up from the floor with a grunt.

“Really? How do you know it isn’t his?” asked Evelyn.

“Fairies like sweet things. Coffee is bitter.”

“Oh.” Evelyn turned the cup over. There was a name scrawled on the side. “Rowan,” she read.

“Fake, but still significant. Twigs and branches from rowan trees can be used to ward off evil, including fairies.”

“It could be someone who sees themselves as a weapon against fairies. But all fairies in general or just this one?” A notion struck Evelyn and she looked at Andrew thoughtfully.

“No,” he said. “Absolutely no.”

“We don’t have a fairy-related crime division; we don’t have anyone to handle public relations. We have to investigate the murder of a high-ranking fairy and you’re the only expert we have on the subject.”

“And as an expert, my opinion on the subject is, that it’s a horrible idea. Fairies don’t like halfbreeds,” he pause for a moment before adding, “either. Especially not those high up. They’ll see my inclusion as an insult.”

“We won’t tell them, obviously.”

Andrew just gave her an exasperated look.

“Okay. Maybe that won’t work. But look, this is what I’m talking about. I’m flying blind here; I don’t know anything.”

Andrew sighed and rubbed a big hand over his forehead. “Okay. I’ll go with you. But you do all the talking; I’ll just stand in the background and take notes and, I dunno, look pretty, I guess.”

“Very pretty.”

“Shut up.”

 

The night porter hadn’t had anything to add to his explanation and trying to track down whoever had bought the coffee, had given them nothing more than a description of a nondescript black woman in her late thirties, early forties.

If they wanted information, they needed to know about the victim and this was why Evelyn and Andrew were right now standing outside a nightclub which was currently closed. It was named Dunluce Castle and Andrew had reluctantly told her that it was the place to be and be seen for fairies and their hang arounds. If Mr. Belenus stayed out till five, this was the likeliest place.

Evelyn knocked at the door, waited a moment and when nobody answered, she pounded on it with her fist.

There was a sound of incoherent muttering and then the door was unlocked and opened just a crack. A pale woman peered out at them, blinking owlishly in the sharp midday light.

“Homicide,” said Evelyn and flashed her badge. “We need to speak to you and anyone who was working here last night.”

“About what?” The voice was beautiful, melodic, making the two words sound like a poem. Behind her, Evelyn heard Andrew clear his throat loudly.

She unfolded a scan of Mr. Belenus’ ID-card and showed it to the woman. “Was he here last night?”

The woman’s eyes went wide and she made a jerk as if to slam the door, but then changed her mind. “Better come in,” she said.

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