mckinneycantspeak asked: WRITE, BITCH! WRITE RIGHT NOW!
Doing a novella instead of a novel this month. 500 - 750 words per day.
mckinneycantspeak asked: WRITE, BITCH! WRITE RIGHT NOW!
Doing a novella instead of a novel this month. 500 - 750 words per day.
Eleven days. It had been eleven days since Joseph had known safety. Eleven days on the road, eleven days tending to this infant. Joseph knew the baby was starving. He only wished he could do something.
“What’s your child’s name?”
“He’s not mine,” Joseph said. The soldier by his side leaned over and smiled at the infant in his arms. Joseph jerked away, waking the baby. The baby’s wails reached every pair of ears in the convoy. These days it was hard to trust anyone in uniform. Though, nobody in this unit did anything abhorrent yet. Joseph let the soldier have a look. “I just found him-”
“On the street, in his dead mother’s arms, as you were fleeing the city, right?” The soldier tried tickling the child’s nose. The iron on his finger on scratched the delicate skin, escalating the child’s protests. “Sorry,” the soldier said. Joseph was too busy rocking the boy back and forth to hear. He shuffled away from the soldier. Toxic, all of them.
The soldier fished for something in his pouches. He retrieved a banana, a bit misshapen from the days of marching. “Here.”
“You think he can eat this?”
“It’s for both of you. If he can’t eat it, you need the strength.” The soldier forced it into Joseph’s hands. “The name’s Morgans. Trooper Morgans. Don’t worry, we’ll be at Hillcrest by the evening. Promise. Imperial honor.”
Joseph snatched the fruit away from Morgans’ hands. As little as Joseph trusted him, soldiers had easier ways to kill a refugee. Joseph tried to play a game, waving the banana through the air like a toy and landing it in the baby’s mouth. The only metaphor he could craft was a spear sailing towards its target. How grisly.
Dozens of iron-clad bodies rattled at once. Morgans’ too, standing at attention in an instant. Joseph had no time to think. He gasped, feeling a cold hand grab him by the wrist. Something else cold was shoved into his hand.
“Defend yourself if necessary.” As Joseph looked down at the knife he held as a spear sailed by his head. Joseph did the only thing a sane man could do. Throwing himself at the ground, he kept his head low. Shrieks from the baby’s lungs complemented the battle cries of dying soldiers. War was in the air, and all Joseph could do was wait for it to end.
Something heavy fell on top of his back. With a grunt, Joseph tried to take his mind away. Maybe he could act like a real father and comfort the baby. In a hushed voice, he tried singing the only song he knew.
“Listen children, to a story
That was written long ago
Of the kingdom on a mountain
And the valley folk below
On the mountain was a treasure
Buried deep beneath a stone
And the valley people swore
They’d have it for their very own”
Blood oozed down the sides of his face. Trying to ignore the corpse on top of him, he kept singing. The spears repeatedly jabbing into whatever body was shielding him made that difficult. At least the baby’s cries became laughter, like the rocking of their bodies was some kind of game. As he nearly finished his song, another voice cut off the last line.
“We’ve secured the hostages,” it yelled across the plains. With the sounds of fighting no longer in his ears, Joseph wanted to move. He could barely budge with the armored body pinning him down. Eventually, something threw the weight off his back and Joseph rolled over.
“Arming civilians, to make us think they’re combatants. The insurgents will stoop to anything,” the new soldier grumbled as he snatched the knife by Joseph’s side. The soldier’s hands pulled Joseph to his feet. Joseph could only look to the body, face down and punctured with a hundred holes, wondering if that was Morgans who tried to save him. He’d never know.
“You’re safe now,” the soldier said. His accent was thick, but Joseph could still understand most of the words. “The insurgent army won’t be hiding behind you anymore.” Without asking, the soldier’s armored hands beat at Joseph’s rags, trying to shake off the dirt. “We’ll get you to the nearest refugee camp, and you’ll be absolutely safe there. Promise. Imperial honor.”
“How far is Hillcrest?” Maybe this one’s second opinion would bring better news, Joseph reasoned. The soldier’s answer brought no hope.
“No, Hillcrest is held by the insurgents. They’ll use you as a hostage there. We need to march to Shield’s Valley.” The man wasn’t even looking at Joseph anymore. He looked back and forth, barking the occasional order at his fellow soldiers.
“How long…” Joseph trailed off. Somehow, he knew he wouldn’t like the answer.
“Eleven days. Nine, if we make good time.” The soldier spouted off the words like it was no big deal. It probably wasn’t to him. To Joseph, it may as well have been an eternity. The soldier leaned in towards Joseph’s body, smiling at the infant in his arms. “What’s his name?” the soldier asked with a chuckle. He held out his hand. “You can call me Lieutenant Morgans.”
“Get away from me.” Joseph cradled his son as he leered back.
Eleven days. Another eleven days before Joseph could be safe again.
"You leave your back to me. Do you trust me?" Her voice had a certain lilt to it. Her melody sang through Captain Han’s body, easing his muscles. No, he exposed his back because he knew cowardly elves loved to attack from behind. The moment she advanced, he’d turn and snap her neck. She had no chance. "I see you in our dreams too, Syae Han."
"What? How do you know my name?" Han’s gaze whipped around. Raelnefirdoa stood three paces closer. Shit, how did she sneak up without his hearing? "I know your name too, Rael Who Breathes The Life Giving Flame." For an instant, Han thought he’d lost control of his body. The words spilled from his mouth before he could comprehend them. "I never knew your humanic was so good."
"And I, too. Your elvish is perfect." As Han dragged his feet around, facing his mark, he realized he’d never studied a word of elvish in his life. When he finally had a full view of her, Han could see that Rael was… No, she was an elf. He could never imagine such things about an elf. "Ever since we met at Rynnlann, I see you every night. You see me too, I know it now."
Han wanted to reach for his sword. Every voice in his head barked and ordered him to do it, except for that one. Rael’s. He stood straight, ready to salute, forced to keep his face as emotionless as possible. “I don’t care what you think,” he said through clenched teeth. “You are the Red Dragon General, and I will kill you.”
"I too am devoted to slaying you. For the sake of my people." Her hand, slender and bony, ran down Han’s cheek. "Are we not the same in our purpose?"
Han knew Rael at that moment. Both of them wanted to throw away their titles, their duties, their cares. They saw each other’s desire to embrace and forget the rest of the world. Neither of them could do it, for honor always superseded passion. And for that moment, Han knew that humans and elves were not so different after all.
"Next time, I will kill you," Han whispered into her pointed ear, soft as silk.
"And I, you," she echoed back.
Janet was like an e-cig. He craved her presence, and every night with her was enjoyable but altogether unsatisfactory at the same time. Every breath he drew from her sent tingles through his lips, a buzz on the bridge of his nose, and a fuzzy wash over his brain. But it was just a little off, in a way that he could never quite pin down. Janet was healthier, more agreeable, and just plain safer. After every day, he left full of guilt. He could have truly loved Janet, if only he had met her first. The way Fate had played its cards though, his heart was with Janice, and always would be.
Janet cried, choking through a yes when she saw the ring. Almost every part of him smiled. Almost, except for his heart, still cradled in Janice’s arms. They remained six feet under, right where he had left them. He coughed, feeling a hole in his chest expand. It would be easy enough to chalk that one up to nervousness.
Just like the drills, Masen told herself. The trick was to not think about moving at all. Jessica’s voice whispered in Masen’s ear, telling her to pretend that she’s part of the underbrush. It seemed silly back then, but the way the inquisitor’s team swept right by her showed that it was working. Waiting for that fateful moment when the inquisitor’s silver-laced boots stomped by her, Masen flipped her blade into her hands.
The acolyte barely had a chance to scream before the sword rammed through his skull.
Inquisitor Falegg’s unit turned at once. Their faces were all the more familiar this time. Each one wore that same expression of shock and horror that she had when they murdered every single soldier in her command. The captain tore her weapon free, flicking a trail of blood against their satin robes. Falegg began screaming commands, ordering everyone to surround her. Captain Masen was alone and Inquisitor Falegg had an entire squad with him.
The difference was, this time, Masen had steel.
"I have come to a conclusion on my assessment, Captain Marlocke." Officer Maiel kept her fancy words tucked away. Her superiors tended to get impatient and twitchy when she was long-winded. "The target certainly harbors the Lord of Decay. Possession threat stands at yellow and climbing." The demon hunter clenched her fists. Doling out the final bits was always the hard part. "Target’s mental struggles cause steady degradation of the target’s ability to perform. Execution is necessary." She twisted her hands. The icy knife in her grip carved a bloody hole in Marlocke’s throat. "I assume command of the Imperial 66th Division until headquarters finds a suitable replacement."
Pitch black fog poured from the wound. It billowed past Maiel’s eyes as the familiar stench of rot bloomed in the command tent. Marlocke’s corpse slumped to the ground. “Until next time,” she called to the skies.
By Masen’s best estimates, the execution was today. The jailors who delivered her food were a chatty pair, unaware that she had a fair grasp on their language. If they fed her once a day, then this was her time to do or die. Keeping track of time was hard in the stone cell without a single window. Retreating back into her mind, reliving her favorite memory, was how she kept track of time. Thirty repeats, and it was time for another meal.
The dream always started with a boot kicking up dust into her nostrils. She was in no danger; the iron bars before her face made sure of that. Every inch of her legs stretched, pressing her face against the barrier, as if she would magically squeeze through if she pushed hard enough. Vanessa showed more restraint, only clutching the bars in her hand as she hopped on the crate that served as their foothold.
Major Vashnu was up against the arena wall, Sir Kendall pinning him with a torrent of attacks from his halberd. Every strike bounced the major against sandstone again, a cloud of sand whirling against the gladiators. But it wasn’t until Vashnu’s fist punched through an opening in the knight’s pattern, launching the armred aristocrat into the air, that the audience came alive. The sisters squealed in unison as the crowd erupted in cheers. With their stolen view, hidden behind a drain at the arena’s back end, all they saw was Vashnu’s heels sprinting in pursuit. In moments, the two were tangled again, both men a tangle of limbs. Only when steel rang and an ornate royal helmet rolled in front of the girls’ eyes did the match end.
“See?” Masen was pulled to the side as Vanessa shook her by the shoulders. “See? I told you imperial soldiers are the strongest!” It was hard to understand what was going on, but Masen felt a warm glow in her gut all the same. “I’m gonna join the academy and be strong just like them!” A chorus of horns sang, indicating the start of the next match. The sisters forgot about each other in an instant, hypnotized to see the next fight.
Metal scraped against metal. The grinding of the rusted lock served as Masen’s cue. Her shins, bony from so many weeks of starvation, hit the stone. A shard of splintered wood was her only guard against the cell floor. Bowing her head, she began the chant of her prayer. A boot heavy enough to send the gravel around her shaking told her that the brute entered first. Even in her prime, the brute would have been half again her size. Masen dared not think about their size difference now. The shrew was second in the cell, chuckling about something that only he found humorous. The past few days, the pair had spent time taunting her, certain she couldn’t fight back in her state. The sound of her voice mumbling gave them second thoughts.
The sound of the shrew’s sword pulling from its scabbard brought her to life. One hand went to the sword’s pommel, shoving the weapon back into its sheath while she kicked the wood sliver into her other hand. Checking her flank, the brute still fumbled with his club, fingers tangled in undoing the loop. Masen drove the jagged point of her makeshit shiv into the shrew’s eye. A jet of blood warmed her skin. One target down.
Masen whirled, tearing back out from its sheath. She ducked low and aimed high. The club left a breeze as it whiffed over her head, only to be answered by steel slicing clean across the brute’s flopping gut. The resistance in Masen’s fingers told her that she cut shallow, but the bellows of pain were enough. Flipping onto her feet, the sight of a fat bully trying to hold in his guts met her eyes. Spinning the blade in her grip, she lunged. The brute’s throat stood no chance.
The sword slammed down, cleaving the brute’s skull in two. Confirming her kill, the screams echoing off the stone flooded into Masen’s ears. The shrew continued to roll and flop around on the ground, seized by pain. Waiting for him to face up, she stomped a bony heel onto his chest. He may have had more physical strength left in his body, but that was nothing before her conviction. Her victim winced, only driving the stake deeper into his socket, eliciting another scream. That warm glow returned to her body, and with age Masen could finally give it a name. Victory, pride, and satisfaction, all at once. Before she executed her second target, she repeated her prayer, the one that was not aimed at any of her goddesses but to her long dead sister.
“You were right. Imperial soldiers are the strongest.” Lieutenant Masen hacked off her jailor’s head.
Middle-aged parent. Educated, worldly. Intellectually adaptive, perceptive, and empathetic. Exactly the kind of person I want to be in twenty years. Well, minus the parent part.
Halfway through the conversation, she asked me, “You’re a writer, aren’t you? I can tell by the way you articulate your words.”
The most flattering thing I’ve been told in my entire life.
"Get out of my way." When Maiel didn’t budge, Loren readied his spear in both hands, tip aimed at her stomach. Steel brushed against cloth. There wasn’t a scrap of armor on her body. "One more time. Out of my way."
"I am in defiance of orders from central command. Why do you think I’m going to listen to you?" Maiel took one step towards the captain. She spread her arms wide, as if she were ready to embrace him, something they hadn’t done in years. "Turn around. We can return home, together."
"Turn around? The red dragon general is at our feet, and you think I’m going to turn around?" The spear flicked up, this time aimed between the arcanist’s eyes. Maiel blinked, but she didn’t flinch. "My home burned to ash twenty-five years ago, and you want me to turn around? He’s going to keep doing it until I stop him!” Every word strained through the captain’s clenched teeth. The weapon in his hands trembled in his tightening grip.
"It doesn’t have to be you!" Maiel screamed back. A flock of birds scattered from the treetops above. Maiel grabbed the neck of the spear, lowering and steadying it. With a tug, she pulled her childhood friend closer. "I can save you."
For a moment, they were back at the academy. The two of them huddled together at a desk, Maiel teaching Loren how to read with only her cold, blue light to shine on the pages. Loren in the mess hall, taking on all challengers in a spectacle of arm wrestling, so Maiel could sneak off with half a turkey, which they’d later share in a hidden corner. In the open training pits, his arms around hers, teaching her firsthand how to skewer a dummy with a spear. In each other’s arms, shedding tears at their graduation, sharing their last moment for the next ten years.
The metal in Maiel’s gut interrupted their memories.
"I’ve read the memos you were supposed to keep secret. I know what’s inside of me.”
Her breathing turned to labored gasps. Blood poured over her fingers as she tried to plug the hole. She’d suffered worse, yet at this moment her head could not recall the procedure to close the wound. Stumbling back, she slumped against a tree. The captain towered over her, a dark aura emanating from his body. As he approached, she could see Loren drifting away. She was losing him to the Lord of Tyranny.
A vial of clear fluid fell into Maiel’s palm. “You don’t need to die. But you can’t stop me. I will kill the red dragon general.”
Fingers fumbled to uncork the potion. A trickle of sweet fluid fell down her throat, and her flesh mended. With the strength to stand again, she watched his back as he ventured deeper into the forest.
"I will save you, Loren. And it will be the last thing I ever do."
Went through and tagged characters in my old blog posts. You can now track little snippets of characters, even if they go unnamed in the vignette. The more you know!