Snowfall: Flash Fiction Friday Post

It started snowing at seven in the morning. By seven-thirty, it was coming down at about an inch an hour. Social media filled with pictures people took of the snow in their yards, their neighborhoods, their towns. No one had seen anything like it.

“It never snows this far south,” one woman said as she was interviewed by a local TV reporter. I don’t even have a snow shovel!”

Estelle turned the TV off. It was February. Why did they all panic at the sight of a snowflake. She got up and went to the kitchen to make some hot tea. Estelle had come from upstate New York. Snowfall of a foot or even two was pretty normal. It was just after noon and she’d already been out twice to shovel her short driveway and even shorter front walk.

Big improvement over New York, she thought as she waited for the electric kettle to bring the water to a boil. There it would have taken me two hours just to get the driveway cleared, let alone the walks and the decks. No, she decided. It is much better here.

Tea made, she took it into the living room and settled in under an afghan her mother had made for her and read a book. Three hours later, it was time to clear the driveway again.

She dressed lightly. Shoveling snow was a workout. Estelle grabbed the shovel out of the garage and began. It was wet and heavy, this late in the day, not like the fluffy, dry snow from the colder morning. Working steadily, she cleared the walk, then began the driveway. Halfway done she stopped to rest. The street where she lived was populated but no one was out. The snow was still falling at a fast clip, big, fat, wet flakes, drifting down, smothering all the sounds she normally heard in the area.

When she got to the street, she realized the city plows still hadn’t been through, no one had. She shook her head. What if one of the neighbors needed an ambulance. She glanced next door. Trudy Willa had been carried off by ambulance twice in the last year. There was no sign of Trudy or her husband, Dave. Obviously, they were going to wait to clear their drive. They always hired someone.

Estelle knocked the wet snow off of her shovel and got back to work. The cloudy day made nightfall that much sooner. She wanted to get this done and get back inside and make a little dinner. Spaghetti, she thought, with jarred sauce. That’ll be quick and easy. She stopped shoveling to move her shoulder around. It was hurting. No wonder, she thought. She hadn’t had to shovel snow in the six years she’d been here.

After two more shovelfuls, she stopped again. She was a little nauseous, too. Good thing she was going to make a quick dinner. Estelle looked around. The driveway was nearly done. Good. She shoveled more, tossing the snow as far as she could. This storm was supposed to last through tomorrow. She didn’t want the snow to pile up too much right next to the driveway. She rubbed her arm again. Going to have to do more arm work in the gym, she thought and went back to work.

She was close to being done and the daylight was fading fast. Just in time, she thought. She was ready for another hot cup of tea. That’s when the pain hit her in the chest, radiating out to her arms so hard and fast Estelle fell to her knees, the shovel falling from her hands. What the…, she thought as she gasped for breath. What was going on?

The pain wouldn’t stop. She wanted to get up, get inside, call someone, but she just couldn’t get her legs to move. Another sharp pain came washing through her. She fell over on her side, still gasping from the intensity of it. Get up, she told herself. You can’t lay on the driveway. You’ll freeze. But still, she couldn’t move. Estelle lay there, the snow drifting down on her. She concentrated on just breathing. Slow and steady, she thought, but any deep breath made her hurt even more.

Ridiculous. I’m not going to just lay out here. She tried to roll to her knees, but any movement just set off more chest pain. Heart attack, she thought. I’m having a heart attack. She lay her head on the cold, wet, cement of the driveway, her knees pulled up to her chest. She could feel the wet soaking into her jeans and the shivering start.

Gently. Very gently. Get inside and call the ambulance. You can do it. Don’t worry about how much it hurts. So slowly, very slowly, she rolled up, gasping with the pain and began to crawl to the garage door. It was fifteen feet away. You can do it, she told herself. This will teach you to carry the phone in your pocket. At ten feet from the open maw of the garage, she had to rest. Her knees were protesting the crawl on the hard cement. Shut up, she told them. We’ve got bigger problems. Ten feet, let’s go.

It was getting darker. The lights weren’t on. She hadn’t needed them when she’d first come outside. You can’t lay here, Estelle, she told herself. Get inside. Do it! She raised herself and crawled. Her gloves had soaked through and her hands felt like ice. Three feet from the edge of the door, her arms collapsed as another chest pain hit. She fell over and pulled her knees up to her chest, her head next to the wooden door frame. Please no, she thought. Not like this. Then she felt nothing.

Dave found her the next day when he took his fat little chihuahua for its walk—Estelle was a shapeless blob of snow near the open garage door, frozen.

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The Juniper and the Pine: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Juniper Berries

The juniper sprouted. She saw immediately that the ground was soft and luxurious. The lives of others were in her roots and the water that came, funneled slow and steady to her roots. She reveled in her tiny sprout state. Hiding among the pine straw and the random vines, the tiny alligator juniper noticed a constant parade of creatures trampling the ground over and over just a short distance away. Still. Life is life and she did her mighty best to grow.

Years later, another sprout grew.

She was a bit concerned. It was close. A bit too close but still. The water flowed and the people, as she grew to name them, still passed by, never stopping to see them.

The sprout grew. A ponderosa pine. The little juniper trembled. Perhaps she should have made a fuss. Made the people trample the pine. Still. The pine was quiet. Not a fuss. The juniper trembled. There wasn’t a lot of room. What if the water dried up?

The water still flowed. Year after year. Some years it was pretty lean. The juniper dug her roots in. It was a pocket, she realized. Deep and full of many years growth of leaves. The ponderosa roots found the pocket as well. The pocket went deep. It was a crevasse in the cliff face. Their roots intertwined. They probed, deeper and deeper.

Over and over, the roots dug deep while the top grew tall. Just two feet apart, the trees grew.

Juniper led the way. Up and up. It was a miracle. There was a space in the canopy and the sun shone down. Juniper made it a race. She grew as fast as she could. Shade made by the juniper cut the chances of the other plants. All except the ponderosa. The ponderosa loved the shade. It made it strong.

Years passed. The juniper grew tall and strong. The ponderosa grew slow and steady. It took many years. People passed by. The trail became hard packed and deep. It was a long time but eventually the trail dropped to the roots of the two trees.

The juniper cried out each time her roots were trampled.

“Hush’, the ponderosa whispered. “Dig deeper. The humans tread just the top. We are stronger than that.”

“I need the surface roots,” she cried.

“Spread out, then,” the ponderosa said. It hugged his friend, sending root tendrils to her.

The roots spread. Each crack in the rock. Each small crevasse with decaying leaves was a chance for the juniper. The ponderosa followed its friend. The juniper struggled. Each human trampled its basic root. She wailed in pain. The ponderosa hugged its friend as best it could.

“Stay brave!” the ponderosa sent to its friend with its roots.

The juniper struggled. “Just a moment. Just a bit when no one is squashing me.

For the ponderosa, it waited. It grew. It soaked in the rich, soft mulch of the forest as it seeped down the cliff face to the roots of itself and its friend.

It took many years. The juniper and the ponderosa had grown many feet. The people began to move around them. That made them happy. The water still flowed down the cliff face. It still puddled in the space in their roots.

It took many years but eventually Ponderosa grew taller than its friend Juniper.

It was a pleasant life in their little canyon. The world around them changed, then changed again, then again. The air became cleaner, more people came, sometimes just to stand and stare. Houses were built right on the edge of the canyon but not within the canyon itself. Then, fewer people came. Fewer mechanical birds flew through the air. The land and water became cleaner. Juniper and Ponderosa wondered about it but were happy anyway.

Every day the trees enjoyed the sun or rain or snow in its proper seasons. The sumac came and went, short lived that they were. The same for the shrub oaks and the few maples that lived in the canyon.

Through it all the trees shared each other and the canyon. They were the longest-lived trees around. But it couldn’t last forever. Even the longest-lived trees must die eventually. Juniper, as the oldest, grew yellow on the few branches she had left. She’d seen a thousand years and even her love for Ponderosa couldn’t stop the march of time.

Ponderosa mourned Juniper, her rough trunk remaining just inches away. Gray, twisted, jagged, it reminded the Ponderosa of all of the storms the pair had withstood over the centuries. Then, the Ponderosa also began to fail. It took time to die but even the mighty tree had to pass. Their remaining branches, drying in the hot sun, remained intertwined, their trunks together.

Birds made hollows in the trunks to have babies. Woodpeckers came and drilled little holes to gather the insects that infested the dead wood. Moss grew in the shade, and lichen gathered in the wooden hollows. A different kind of life began in their remains as children of the trees grew around them.

Their deaths were not sad. They continued to bring life to the canyon and, they loved each other to the end.

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The Universe Calls: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Lightning in the Night Sky

The Universe Calls

When I was seven I could hear the whispers. I told my mom about them but she said I was thinking of the voices on the television.

When I was ten, the voices were louder. Not loud enough to make out what was being said, but they were there. After years of telling my parents, I finally understood that they couldn’t hear the whispers and didn’t want to know about them either. I kept the voices to myself.

Every year the voices grew louder, until I could clearly hear them. No one else I knew heard voices, so I kept it to myself, even when they became so loud it was hard to hear the teachers in school, or even mom and dad or my sister or brothers.

I kept to myself and surprisingly, it didn’t take long for people, even my family, to just kind of, overlook me. My brothers were so boisterous that they attracted all of the attention. What they didn’t attract, my sister did as she acted out with skirts too short and boy friends too wild. My parents had all they could handle. I wasn’t a problem so they just left me alone.

By the time I was sixteen, I could tell who in school might be like me. We were the outsiders. Not picked on, just hanging around the fringes. Slowly, I made friends with them. It wasn’t easy to draw them out. Like me, they’d learned to keep quiet. Eventually, though, we had our own table in the cafeteria.

The others had their own gifts. That’s what we decided to call them. Carl was a math whiz. He could see the answer to any math problem. Secretly he’d gone to the biggest university web sites and pulled their math department’s toughest problems. He’d solved them all but didn’t tell them. He worked with Gillian, who was a computer hacking genius, to break into the government’s sites and find their hardest problems. He solved them as well. Tony was a mechanic. He could fix anything. Along with Claire, who could design anything, they built some fantastic new devices, but we didn’t share. Bob was a plant guru and Cecelia could manipulate light. Sound was Patel’s gift. He could make it open, close, build or destroy.

By the time we’d graduated, we’d cracked Wall Street and all of the overseas financial markets and purchased land and had housing and labs built. We told our parents, the ones who cared, anyway, that we were going on a walk-about. My parents both cried as they protested they didn’t know where the time had gone and they hardly knew me.

That was an understatement. We went to our secret hideaway and called others like us from around the world to join us. The voices kept us busy. They wanted us to build all of this great tech. They pointed out where we could improve things. Soon we had kids, well, young adults, now, come who were charismatics. We started them on political paths as the rest of us prepared.

It took a lot of time as we maneuvered our politicians into place in each country. Our military experts had to run interference several times but by the time I was fifty, we were ready.

We’d changed the laws, planet wide. Kids received proper schooling, food, and medicine. More and more children had the gift and we put them to use. Warfare fell away and the last dictator was gone. Cities were cleaned up and the environment, close to collapse when I was a girl, was recovering.

That’s when the voices told me to assemble our leaders. Not the politicians, but the leaders of our little group that I had assembled decades before. I was the conduit, where we’d received our instructions so far.

I spoke as the main voice in my head spoke.

“We congratulate you all,” said the voice who called itself Notion. “You’ve worked hard and followed our instructions. Well done.”

The group in front of me cheered. When they quieted, Notion continued.

“It’s time for us to join you. And for you to join us. We will arrive in a week. Meet us at the spaceport you’ve built. We’ll be together at last!”

There was much cheering at that and while the others asked me what else Notion was saying I could only shake my head. Notion was gone.

Preparations were made. A band was assembled, the best of our musicians that existed. Bunting was raised along with a speaker’s platform. No instructions for the kind of housing Notion and the others needed were given but we prepared an entire hotel with every kind of food Earth had to offer available.

The day arrived, and we were ready. I was on the platform, along with the original group. The ship, if it could be called that, landed. A bright ball of energy and smaller energy balls separated from it. They floated over to us. I could hear Notion.

“Greetings, children.”

I repeated the words before I realized that everyone could hear it speak. It continued as we all gaped in surprise.

“We are grateful for your diligence. We appreciate your efforts.”

I watched as other balls of energy left the ship and as the ship shrank. A ball of energy hovered over each person present. Other balls of energy drifted away. Notion hovered in front of me.

“And you, Cheyenne, we thank you most of all. It’s time for your reward.”

I was surprised. What reward? No reward had ever been mentioned. We were just saving our planet.

Notion drifted closer. Its light was blinding but not hot. I turned my face up to it as it drifted closer. I wasn’t afraid. I closed my eyes. I could feel it touch me, a tingling. Then warmth crept over my whole body. There was a flash of pain, then nothing.

Notion shivered, then made itself draw a breath. It opened its new eyes. “Ah. That’s nice.”Share this:
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The Doomsday Vault: Flash Fiction Friday Post

burned_out_building_by_chisatowatanabe-d8mdbcd via DeviantArt.com

I opened the Doomsday vault with shaky hands. Newly promoted to manager, it was my responsibility now to open the vault everyday and check expiration dates, and other things that were located inside. Then to replace as necessary.
Standing inside the massive door, I looked around. A hundred and thirty-two years, this vault had been in existence. Books lined the shelves in front of me. How-to manuals mostly as the planners assumed that there wouldn’t be power available for computers. I sighed. Those wouldn’t ever need replacing. But, the food would have to be replaced on a regular basis. Those shelves were clearly marked and I stepped over to them to check the dates.
As I pulled the expired boxes from the shelves I thought about the current world situation. Everything seemed good. After the Korean situation had been resolved, most countries became peaceful. There was the middle east, of course, there were still a couple of groups that demanded everyone convert to Muslim, but they were on the fringe, even in their own countries. Our group monitored them, of course, but in my morning briefing, they weren’t even mentioned.
I stacked the expired material outside the door and brought in the new foodstuffs. I marked the expiration date on them and stacked them neatly on their shelves. I made note on the inventory what I brought in, then walked over to the weapons rack. Someone had decided a long time ago that there would be some weapons in the vault, just in case of trouble. I wondered for a moment who the designers thought would be around to cause trouble, then put it out of my mind. I knew that most every country had some sort of doomsday vault. I’d been to a meeting last year as I was being prepped to take on the roll. There I met the other managers. As conventions go, it was pretty small, there were only two hundred and three attendees. Not every country had a vault.
It was fun, and I’d made some acquaintances. The British manager was an Irish woman and she’d been manager of her vault for twenty-seven years. If there was a doo-dad that helped with survival, she knew of it and had an opinion on the usefulness of it as well. I took another look around the vault. Everything was in order and I was reaching up to turn off the light when my assistant ran up to the door.
“Karen. Come quick. Terrorists have bombed the capital! It’s on the news!”
I hesitated. There had been no warning this morning of any unrest anywhere on the planet. What had happened? “Call security. We’re going to get a lot of people here in a hurry.”
She nodded and ran off. I pulled the emergency checklist out and began the initiation phase. Three hundred and twenty-two people were going to start arriving any time now. If they’d escaped the bombing. I had a lot to do to get ready.
All in all, two hundred and sixty people arrived. Tales of government buildings destroyed or on fire circulated around the arrival hall. The din was deafening. We weren’t supposed to but since there were empty spaces, I allowed my assistant and her children in. Then we closed the door. There was no telling how long we’d have to stay. The noise died down as everyone moved to their assigned rooms. The monitor in the lounge was on. Newscasters were giving reactions to the attack and showing pictures of the capital in flames.
A commotion in the hall pulled me away from the monitor. Two security officers were facing a man yelling obscenities.
“What’s going on?” I came out into the hall.
“I demand to know why my wife couldn’t come in. I had to leave her home.” He shouted the question at me, all red in the face and sweating.
I recognized him. He was the chief of staff for the vice president. New to the job. “You didn’t have your wife listed, Mr. Fairchild.” If he’d had brought her, I would have let her in. Like I did for my assistant.
“I was going to list her, but there’s just so much.” He looked around at the security guards, then made his case to the people who were gathering around, watching the drama. A few nodded. “I was going to get to it.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Fairchild. I truly am.”
“Open the door and let me out. I’ll go and get her.”
I shook my head. “We can’t do that until we get the all clear or we know it’s safe out there. Why don’t you go to the clinic and get the doctor to give you something to help you relax?”
“I don’t want drugs.” He was beginning to look wild eyed. “I want my wife!” He charged the security officers and the bystanders hurried off.
“Take him to the clinic.”
They dragged him off, him still screaming obscenities. I took a breath. The procedures mentioned that some number of people would not handle the emergency well. I wondered how many more there’d be. That was when I saw Mr. Fairchild running toward me. He had a gun in his hand. Where’d he get that? The security officers were running after him.
Fairchild pointed the gun at me. “Let me out!”
I held up my hand as I shook my head. “I can’t do that, Mr. Fairchild.”
“Yes, you can!” He fired.
I fell backward, hitting my head on the tile floor. It was hard to breathe, then he was standing over me.
“I told you! I told you!” He shook the gun at me.
I could see the officers take him down, wrestling the gun away from him and zip tying his hands behind him. I didn’t feel anything and I wondered about that. Shouldn’t I hurt? I closed my eyes and relaxed into a warm feeling of well-being. Let someone else work it out.
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Slave Elf Part 32: Flash Fiction Friday Post

alnwick_castle_by_americamarten-dbomzh2 via DeviantArt.com. https://www.deviantart.com/art/Alnwick-Castle-706511126

Find Part 1 here.

Part 32

She woke at a noise. It surprised her how quiet it was in this dungeon. No outside sound at all, until now. A scrape out in the hallway. Delia sat up and waited. The sound of a key in the lock made scraping noises then the door opened. A black elf with a torch, she still didn’t understand why when they had magical lights, stepped into the room followed by another and a third remained in the hall.

“Come,” the one without the torch said. It was the same unpleasant tone as they’d used the night before. Was it night? Had she slept away the entire day? She rose and stepped to the door. She wished she’d had time to at least splash her face. It felt sticky from her dried tears. No matter, no one was going to look good after spending the day in a dark hole.

Again she was led to the dining room. Again, Nethene, Ceinno and Iyuno were already seated, each enjoying fine glasses of red wine while they waited. Iyuno waved her to a chair. Just as Delia was seated, Kaya was brought in. Delia grinned with pleasure. Kaya didn’t seem to be any worse for wear and better, they sat her beside Delia again. The two clasped hands and nodded.

Delia was seated next to Ceinno again. The evil radiating off of him was palpable. It made her stomach turn.

“I’m glad to see you both well,” Iyuno began. He nodded at one of the black elves. He stepped forward and poured each of the newcomers a glass of wine.

Delia reached out and picked up her water glass, draining it before putting it back. Iyuno raised an eyebrow but nodded to the elf, who refilled the water.

“Your antics this morning could be heard all over the castle.” Iyuno raised his wine glass to them. “Too bad it didn’t work.”

Delia had a moment where she wanted to retort that it had been working but Kaya grasped her hand in warning. Delia drew a deep breath and gave her friend a brief nod. “Why are we here? Are we hostages?”

Ceinno chuckled which made the hair on Delia’s arm rise.

“No. Not exactly,” Iyuno said. His voice drawled in laziness.

Delia didn’t like the way he drew it out. “Then what? It’s certainly not for our sparkling conversation.”

It was Iyuno’s turn to chuckle. “Your time with the humans has made you sarcastic. Very charming.” He traded glances with Nethene.

Nethene nodded. “We are studying you. The only raven-haired elf! We want to see what you can do. I’ll have to say the day was a bit of a disappointment.”

Delia dug her nails into her palm to resist a retort. Beside her, Kaya drank her water with a nonchalance Delia envied. She picked up her wine and sipped, hoping she looked as uncaring as Kaya. “So sorry to underwhelm.” She looked around the dining room with her magical sight. All of the doors had a fine mesh of magic over them. The black elves had dark brown auras. Iyuno, Nethene, and Ceinno’s were all black. Apparently in his own company, Nethene didn’t bother to project the false aura. The wine and water didn’t have any magical properties. That didn’t mean they weren’t poisoned. Delia made a mental note to see if there was a way to see poison. If she got out of here alive, anyway. “What are you looking for?”

Nethene shrugged. “Something worthy of a prophesy.”

“What do you think of my protection spell?” Iyuno leaned forward, eyes on Delia.

“It’s very strong,” Delia offered. “But I’m new at magic. I don’t really have a frame of reference.”

Iyuno looked to Kaya. “And you? You’re twice Delia’s age. What is your opinion?”

“My skills tend more toward the healing arts.”

Iyuno fell back into his chair. “I saw you both at the gate yesterday. Neither of you fool me. And with the door to your room this morning? I could feel the power. Who was working on the door?”

“We both were,” Kaya spoke quickly. “A combined effort.”

Nethene frowned. Delia could see he was skeptical. “I could feel a shield.”

Delia shrugged. Kaya took a sip of her wine.

Iyuno waved to a guard. The elf left the room and shortly, several elves came in bringing plates of food. Delia’s stomach growled immediately. Ceinno laughed as he placed his napkin in his lap. “The body can be such a traitor.”

Delia couldn’t help but blush. Kaya gave her hand a squeeze. They ate quickly. Delia still wanted to know what Iyuno was up to. When he finished his food and one of the elves took the plate away, Delia asked, “Where is my father?”

Iyuno looked toward her, picking up his wine. “He’s dead.”

Delia stared at him. A feeling of overwhelming grief washed through her with such speed she stopped breathing. She hadn’t known him that long. The strength of the feeling surprised her. Again, Kaya squeezed her hand. Delia nodded. It was possible that if these three were in here having dinner at their leisure, that her father was dead, and his force destroyed. Tears sprang to her eyes. “You lie.”

Iyuno shrugged. “We march on your father’s palace now.”

An instantaneous fear for her mother swept over her, replacing the grief. “Why?”

Nethene snorted again. “Iyuno is the rightful heir. The elves will proclaim it or they will die.”

“Liar,” Kaya called out. “Liar. Anyone can see by looking at the three of you that you are not fit to rule the kingdom.

Ceinno reached out a hand and made a grasping motion. Kaya’s hand flew up to her neck. She began to turn red, choking.

“Stop it!” Delia turned on Ceinno and with a push of her hand, knocked him out of his seat to go sliding across the dining room floor. The black elf guards were on her in an instant, swords out. Nethene leapt from his chair and had both hands out in front of him. Delia could see the magic, all black and ugly, swirling between his hands. Kaya collapsed into her chair, leaning over the table, coughing.

“Stop!” Iyuno held up a hand.

Nethene looked as though he’d been slapped, but he let the black magic die away. One of the guards helped Ceinno up. He dusted himself up and sauntered back to the table. “You see, cousin, uncle, how powerful she is.” He sat down and picked up his wine glass. “She has strength. She’d be a powerful ally.”

Delia’s eys went wide. “The is no way.”

Iyuno laughed. “Of course there is.”

 

Thank You! Come back next week for Part 33.

1114 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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Slave Elf Part 2: Flash Fiction Friday Post

http://magikstock.deviantart.com/art/Camel-1-319794644

Part 2

 

As the camels followed the wagon ahead of them, I sat, half-conscious on the wagon seat. How did this happen to me? I’d asked around over the years, humans staring at the slave brand on my hand. Elves were never slaves, it seemed, but me. What was wrong with me that the elves left me with these slavers? Were elf children so plentiful that one could be snatched away and no one cared?

 

I’d seen elves in the caravan’s travels. Aloof, regal, I longed to shout out to them but Master Corpet, and his father and grandfather, made sure I was chained in my wagon when elves were about. I didn’t even really know anything about elves. Their culture, who they worshipped, favorite foods. The darkness came over me, as had for years. Snippets of memories surfaced of me as a toddler, my parents, laughing, singing, making music. I could almost hear it.

 

The snap of a quirt on my thigh brought me out of my dream. Tears flowed unbidden at the sudden pain. When I blinked, Emil was on horseback beside the wagon, laughing. An evil laugh that reminded me he didn’t care if I hurt or not.

 

“Master Corpet bids you read this and write a response.” He handed me the paper. He didn’t want to throw it in case it blew away. He’d be the one chasing it down.

 

I took it and nodded. “Right away.”

 

Emil snorted then wheeled his horse around and galloped off to the rear of the caravan where the horses were being herded.

I opened the paper and read.

 

Master Corpet,

 

Greetings and well met. Lord Verden passed away last winter. A great loss to his family, friends, and the city, Katzin, as well. As his nephew and heir, I will greet you at the palace at your earliest convenience. Send word on your arrival and an audience will be arranged.

 

As to your business, Uncle left clear direction. I will continue to support you in your endeavors. We will speak of it in person.

 

Lord Trayford

 

Nothing unusual. Much of Master Corpet’s work was done in person, so I wasn’t concerned about that part of the letter. That the old Lord was dead, again, humans have so short a life, I wasn’t surprised by that either. I’d never met the man. I puzzled a bit over …your endeavors. As the master’s book-keeper I was sure I knew all the master’s business. Some of it less than legal, but there seemed nothing Lord Trayford could help with, unless it was protecting the caravan routes from competitors.  I folded the letter and tucked it in my sleeve pocket. No response could be written until the wagons stopped and we neared Katzin.

 

After we camped and I had fetched water for my wagon, I went to see Master Corpet. I stood silently at the back of his wagon as he gave direction to the camel drover leader, the slave minder, and Emil. Emil spit in the sand at my feet as he left the master to take care of his tasks.

 

Corpet grinned at me. “And you, little Delia. What do you have?”

 

I swallowed my gall at the diminutive. I was forty years older than he was. “Other than announcement of our arrival in Katzin, do you want anything else included in the letter to Lord Trayford?”

 

He shook his head; his turban ends swinging gently. “No. That will be all. We will arrive tomorrow. Give me the letter in the morning and I’ll send it from the gate. The lord won’t be ready for me until well after we get to the caravanserai and I have a chance to bathe and refresh myself.”

 

“Yes, master.” I bowed and turned to go.

 

“Delia.”

 

I turned back to him. “Master.”

 

He studied me a long moment. I could feel myself begin to tremble. What was he thinking?

 

“When did you come to us?”

 

I bit my tongue at his choice of words. Come to us? As though it were my idea and I was an honored guest? “I was six, Master. Sixty-three years, eight months, eleven days.”

 

He nodded. “My grandfather. Papa told me. That’s a long time to be a slave.”

 

I shivered, clasping my hands so that he couldn’t see them shake. “I think so, Master. That’s three human generations. A whole human lifetime.” I lifted my chin as I spoke then fearing I’d gone too far, ducked my head and shifted my gaze to the sand.

 

He grunted. “Indeed. That’s all.” He turned and went into his wagon, calling for his personal slave, Sam, to bring him wine.

 

That’s it? I thought. That’s all he wanted? Still trembling I hurried back to my wagon. I put the kettle on for tea and sat at my table, waiting for it to boil. What was that about? What is Corpet thinking? One more day until we arrived at Katzin. We went there every year, twice a year. Out and back on the Corpet trade route. The far end being Midton, the end we just came from, Kitgate. Over a thousand miles, back and forth for the last sixty-three years. Sandstorms, raiders, famine, drought, I’d seen it all, over and over. The water boiled. Half I poured into my mug and dropped in a few tea leaves. The rest I poured into the basin and added cold water.

 

I washed away the dust of the day as best I could and tossed the dirty water out the back of the wagon. I watched it disappear into the sand. Like me, I thought. I was tossed into the mass of humanity, never to be seen again. My chest grew tight at the thought. Lost. Lost.

 

 

 

Thank You! Come back next week for Part 3.

961 Words

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Ambush: Flash Fiction Friday Post

The Arrestra by Jay Richmond at http://bit.ly/1SsjrfT

The Arrestra by Jay Richmond at http://bit.ly/1SsjrfT

Zeke wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his wrist. The grit scratched like a rasp. He would have used his bandana but it was caked with the mud of his sweat and the dust. The donkey plodded around the arrastra, crushing the gold bearing quartz so he could get at the gold ore.

It seemed like it had taken forever to build the thing. He had to level the ground then water it heavily until he could smooth the caliches into a cement-like floor. Hauling water from the creek took more than a week with nothing but empty gunpowder casks to use as barrels, and that was using both donkey and horse to move the water.

Finding the wood to use for the arms and center of the arrastra was another problem. He’d had to cut, trim and haul the right sized trees to his site. The central pivot and the rock crusher pole had to be installed and assembled. He decided to attach the donkey to the rock crusher pole as best he could. Fitting it all together was a nightmare, especially as he should have put the center pole in the ground before he made it hard as cement and he’d only had some old-timer’s word on how it went together. Zeke had wanted to bash his own skull in with the pickaxe before he managed to get the set-up to work.

The crusher was the final problem. It didn’t seem possible to move, let alone carve rocks big enough to be useful. He walked around and around the empty arrastra trying to come up with a plan. The old miner told him he needed two flat-bottomed drag stones, one at the end of each arm. He had the chain. But finding rocks in the creek, then dragging them to the camp, then drilling holes in them drove him to distraction. After a long search he found two rocks, about the right size, beggars couldn’t be choosers, and with his mismatched pair of haulers, dragged the rocks to camp, drilled them out and hooked them to the newly assembled arms. It was easier to dig the damn quartz than to build the arrastra. When it was done he sank to his knees, and wept.

Three nights later a noise penetrated Zeke’s exhausted sleep. He heard his horse, Butter, whinny—it seemed wrong. Too far away.

He tossed off his wool blanket and rolled to his feet. If that horse has broken free again I’m going to shoot it. This is the fourth time in a month. He pulled on his boots without bothering with socks and grabbed his rifle.

Zeke stepped into the night. A half-moon in a star-studded sky provided a little light. At the picket line the donkey stood, looking to the west. “Damn horse.” Zeke patted the donkey to reassure it before moving in the direction the donkey was pointing.

He whistled softly then called, “Butter, Butter,” in a low voice. He didn’t want to spook her. Zeke stubbed the toe of his boot on a rock. I’m gonna trip and break an arm out here in the dark. If I had any sense I’d go back to my bedroll till daybreak.

Just as he decided to go back to his tent he heard Butter nicker. He followed the sound, grazing a prickly pear cactus in the dark. The thorns stabbed him in the shin and despite wanting to catch the horse, had to stop and pull the spines from his leg. Butter whinnied. She sounded close.

“Butter?” Zeke heard the horse stamping. “Come on girl. She’s close. He followed the noise and in a moment was at the horse’s side. “Hush, hush,” he whispered to her as he stroked her neck. Butter shivered. “Let me untangle your lead.” Zeke struggled in the dark to remove the reins from an acacia. “You couldn’t have got tangled in a shrub oak?” he asked the horse as the acacia thorns caught in the skin of his hands.

Something whizzed past his head. He dropped the lead and hit the ground. Butter danced around him. Zeke hoped he wouldn’t die by trampling from his own horse. More whizzing. Something hit the ground a foot away from him. He reached out and grabbed it. An arrow! The Apache were on him. The old timer’s stories raced through his mind.

“They take your horse in the night, boy. You think your stock has wandered off and you go out, barefoot and unarmed. That’s how they get you, sonny!” The old coot cackled at his bad joke.

Zeke tried to swallow around his dry mouth. Not so funny, old timer. But he had his rifle and a handful of rounds in his pocket. Please Lord. Let it be enough. Leaving Butter to her own chances, he rolled behind the acacia not knowing if the Apache were all in front of him or he was surrounded. He fired a shot into the dark where he thought the arrows came from.

He was rewarded with the sounds of scrambling. “There’s more where that came from.”

More arrows fell around him. The thickness of the acacia main branch saved him from one. Zeke fired again. More scrambling and a hoot. Did he hit someone? He fired toward the sounds and hoped, his heart beating out of his chest. Was he going to die?

Butter pranced left, then right, rearing and snorting. It was the distraction Zeke needed. He rolled to his left and crab walked on hands and feet what seemed a long distance ignoring the cactus spines that stuck in his hands. Butter ran off into the dark.

Sounds of running, then more horses, then horses running off. Was it over?

Zeke hid behind a boulder, rising with the sun to a deserted landscape. He swiped a dirty sleeve across his forehead and limped back to camp. He hoped Butter would be there but he called it a wash. He was alive and that’s all that counted.

 

 

Thank You!

1008 Words

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Happy Anniversary: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Green Velvet Gift Box 1 by http://fantasystock.deviantart.com/

Green Velvet Gift Box 1 by http://fantasystock.deviantart.com/

He was in his usual spot. I had dropped the bag of groceries on the kitchen table and went into the living room. I don’t know why I expected something else. Hope? I sighed. “You’re home early.”

He popped the top on another beer. Three empties littered the side table next to his recliner. “I was let go.”

My heart sank. Things were already tight. I walked around to stand between him and the history channel documentary on the black plague, arms crossed against my chest. “What happened?”

“Told me things were tough and they had to let someone go.” He took a sip and belched. “It happens.”

I nodded. It happened a lot to him. “You were drinking on the job.”

“I had a couple of beers at lunch. No big deal.”

I closed my eyes. I knew better. “And the whiskey shots at break?”

“A pick-me-up is all.”

I could feel the tears beginning to form so I went back to the kitchen to put the groceries away. A fast inventory of the fridge and cupboards made my stomach churn. There wasn’t much on hand. I’d been planning a big shopping expedition this weekend. Now that wouldn’t happen. I made tea and sat down at the table with a legal pad.

He came in, tossed his empties in the recycling bin and got four more beers from the fridge. For some reason, there was always money for beer. He didn’t even look at me before he went back to the living room. I started the list, mortgage, car payment, electricity, water, those were the most important. Then TV, phone, and internet, a combined payment that was lower than doing them separately. The phone and internet were important, that’s how he’d look for work. Groceries, ’cause we had to eat, but I knew how to pinch that particular penny. I knew to the last cent how much each of those bills cost; I was the one that paid the bills every month. The only bill with any give was the grocery bill. I drank the last of my tea, gone cold. My pay wouldn’t cover the bottom line.

He’d been so sweet back in college. Not scary aggressive like the rest of the boys. He played me soft love songs on the quad in the shade of a giant, ancient oak on his guitar. He read my tarot cards, each of us on opposite sides of his dorm room bed, the cards spread out in front of us. Sure, other guys vied for my attention. But I always came back to him. We married right out of college.

I didn’t notice the drinking at first. We all drank in college. After, it was get-togethers with people from work—kegs, now that we all had jobs and money to spare. Those friends dropped out after the babies started coming. Soon, it was just the two of us, uncomfortable with our friends since we didn’t have children. My heart constricted as I sat at the table, turning my tea mug around and around in front of me.

His drinking became a nightly thing. I didn’t realize there was a problem until he came home, fired, five years ago. One of his co-workers told me why when I saw him and his wife in the grocery one day. Drinking on the job. They were so sorry, they said. I nodded, the blush making my face hot. We had a three-hour screaming match when I got home. He promised he’d change. It worked, for awhile.

Now, this was the fifth job in as many years. I turned the kettle on for another cup of tea. Should I go in and confront him? Would it make any more difference than it had the last four times? I put a fresh tea bag in my cup and poured the boiling water over it and sat back down. The pad in front of me sat accusing, the bottom-line figure taunting me. Could I get a second job? My current job was nine-to-five and not very stressful. Maybe I could do something from home.

I was so tired of this fight. I went into the living room and pulled a footstool in front of him. “Do you want to change?”

He blinked at me; already a six-pack into the night’s drinking.

“Do you care at all?”

“Yes.”

“Do something.”

He muted the TV. “I tried.”

“Not hard enough.” He looked tired. No, beaten. My words made his face fall even more. “I can’t pay all of the bills on my salary. You have to get another job.”

“No one will hire me. Word is out.”

Rage washed through me. “Then DO something! Go into rehab! Quit cold turkey. I cannot do this anymore.”

He sat forward in the recliner and took my hand. “I can’t help it.”

I could feel something inside of me snap. He was pathetic. A loser. Why was I struggling with this man? I stood up. “You can move into the spare room.”

He blinked at me again. “What?”

“I’ve had enough. You can move into the spare room. I can’t afford to leave. I’m still responsible for the house and the bills. You get yourself together or get the hell out.”

I stood up and went into the kitchen. My hand shook as I picked up my tea mug. Did I just do that?

He shuffled into the kitchen, shoulders slumped. He handed me a small box of my favorite chocolate truffles. “Happy anniversary.”

I automatically took them, staring at him. An icy wave washed over me. Was he for real? I took the two steps to the trash can and dropped the box in.  I took my tea, went to my bedroom, and locked the door. There was no going back.

 

Thank You!

970 Words

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Birch in the Blade: Flash Fiction Friday Story

Red Dwart by darthcetus via DeviantArt.com

Red Dwart by darthcetus via DeviantArt.com

“It was your mother’s sword, Charlene.”

Charlene stroked the intricate designs on the blade, and the basket hand guard. “Birch leaves?”

“Your mother’s family symbol. They’d be proud of what a fine young woman you’ve become.”

Char took a few practice swirls. “It’s like it was made for me.” She turned to stare. “Enchanted?”

Her father nodded. “It fits itself to its rightful owner’s hand.”

“What other powers does it have?”

“Your mother told me it depends on the owner. For her, it cast a glamour over her, making her seem bigger, stronger, and more fierce. It pierced whatever she hit, no matter how poor the blow. You’ll have to find out what it will do for you.”

Char gazed at the sword with a mix of eagerness and dread. “The gift of the sword must mean it’s time for my quest.”

“You’re twenty. What will you do?”

Char had been thinking about it since she was eight. “I’m going to find the king who destroyed my mother’s family and kill him.”

“A grim task.”

“Long overdue.” She slid the sword into its new scabbard. “Why didn’t you do it?”

“You mother forbade me.”

Char asked, “Any advice?”

“Stay alive.”

Two weeks later Char left. The tradition held that she was to go alone but for the last four generations, a squire had been allowed to go along. Char’s squire, Holly, trained with her from the first year. Beside Char’s horse she said, “Killing King Dwile isn’t going to be easy. A dwarf is going to be underground more often than not.”

“He’ll come out, probably for hunting and he’ll be a lot less protected than in his stronghold.”

Holly nodded. “Killing the dwarf king will cause trouble.”

“Father believes the revenge-killing will be understood by the dwarves. They follow the custom themselves. Prince Dwale will take the throne and there will be peace.”

Holly sighed. “I don’t like it.”

After a  month to travel to King Dwile’s stronghold, two months were spent hiding and spying on the king. Twice they’d nearly been caught by the dwarf patrols. The fourth month they spied the king leading a small group of hunters from the stronghold’s gates.

“They’re headed for the woods,” Char mounted her horse and traced the king and his party.

An hour later the King had just shot a fine buck. While two men gutted the deer, the King called out that he was going to water a tree. The men laughed and the King moved into the woods alone.

“Here’s our chance.” Char hurried through the woods after the king. She reached him already finished with his business and looking up at the trees. Char drew her sword. “King Dwile. I’m Princess Charlene Longbow. You murdered my grandparents and stole their kingdom. Now you must die.”

King Dwile slowly turned to face Char. “A left-over Arborman? I thought I’d destroyed the lot of you.” He pulled his sword from its scabbard.

“I’ve come to avenge my family.”

“A slip of a girl like you?” he laughed. “You’re quest is to kill me? A great many have tried.”

Char advanced, sword ahead of her. The dwarf was short but stocky and broad of shoulder. She saw that he was light-footed as he crossed the forest floor. It was only a moment before they crossed swords. Char hoped that the sword’s magic, still unrevealed, would work for her now.

Holly stood back, keeping watch. “Kill him and be done.”

King Dwile laughed. “In a hurry little one?”

Char pivoted and struck another blow but the King was quick and the swords clashed again. The two of them circled. Char realized that the magic the sword had for her mother wasn’t for her. She wished the sword would help her.

The swords clashing drew the hunting party. “What’s this?” A young dwarf cried out. He drew his blade.

“Stop,” Holly stood between her princess and the dwarves. “Princess Charlene is avenging her grandparents. You must hold.”

“That’s my father, girl.”

Holly nodded but didn’t take her eyes from the dwarf. “Your majesty. Tradition and custom is clear. This is a fair fight.”

Prince Dwale grimaced and continued to grip his sword but no move to stop Char.

Char tired. The King struck harder than the human men she trained with. She stepped forward and before she knew it, her sword had pierced the King’s chest. As soon as she had stopped planning her strokes, the sword took over.

King Dwile stood, eyes wide, his sword dropped. The prince caught his father just before he sank to the ground. Char stepped back and Holly with her.

The prince sobbed over his father before calling his men to carry the king back to the stronghold.

Char gripped her sword as the prince stood up. “King Dwale.”

The young dwarf sighed. “Does this release my family from your revenge?”

“It is done. I’ll trouble your kingdom no further.”

“My father was wrong to attack the Kingdom of Arbor. The old king wouldn’t grant mining rights.”

“I’m sorry for your loss, sir.”

“And I for yours, fair maid. May we offer hospitality?”

Char thought that a bad idea. “My thanks, sire, but we have been travelling a long time. We’re ready to go home.”

“Go safely, then, Princess.”

“And you.”

Returned home, Char met with her father.

“You don’t think he’ll start a war?” The King treaded.

“I don’t think so. They may want to open trade negotiations.”

“Good idea. I’ll send emissaries. What did your quest teach you?

Char thought a moment. “I chose a stupid quest. It wasn’t helpful in and could have led to a war. I wonder that you allowed me to go.”

“It was a chance, but you needed that lesson. You’ll be a better queen for having learned it the hard way.”

Char hoped she wouldn’t have to learn too many more that way.

 

Thank You!

985 Words

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The Mighty Five: Friday Flash Story

Sparks

Sparks

The old woman stirred her fire and dropped another piece of wood on top. The sparks danced up the chimney like demented fireflies.

“Granny, tell the story.”

Elsa wiped her rheumy eyes; of course the grandchildren would want to hear about her adventures. She nodded and hobbled back to her rocker. Shifting the chair so she could face both them and the fire, Elsa’s heart filled with love for the sweet girls cuddled together under a blanket on the bench, ready for a bedtime story.

“It was long ago,” she began, “when my eyes were clear and I moved like a gazelle across the land.”

“You were Elsa the Archer, one of the Mighty Five,” Corrine piped in.

“I was, though you’d never think so to see me today.” Elsa smiled at her oldest grand-daughter. It’s not the children’s fault I’ve grown so old. “It was before your mother was borne when Ragnar the Bold and I took on the evil marshal who was running roughshod over the shire.”

“Then Steven the Red, Dale Strongarm and Jamie the Bull joined you,” Denise, the younger girl added.

“Indeed they did. And we fought Marshal Eggleston with everything we had.” Elsa’s mind flashed to their first fight against the marshal’s men. “The first fight was later called the battle of the ford. The marshal had put a gate on either side of the ford.”

“To collect a tax!” Corrine called out.

“He did. Coming or going, it made no difference to the marshal. While he filled his coffers with our coppers and silvers the people of the Shire grew poorer and poorer. Something had to be done.”

“So Ragnar the Bold devised a plan,” Denise shouted.

Elsa chuckled. “He did. The five of us marched up to the ford, the marshal’s men lounged in their place, calling out that the fee to cross was two coppers. They stood up as we approached, the foul men calling out lewd invitations to me.

“Grandpa Ragnar didn’t like it,” Corrine noted.

“He did not but he kept his temper.” Elsa smiled as she remembered how much she admired her new husband for his control. “Ragnar stepped up to the man in charge as I stood back and the others spread out across the road. Ragnar told the man that we wanted to cross. The soldiers laughed. The head soldier said, ‘When we get the coppers, clod. Two for each of you to cross, though, for the woman, we’ll allow you to pass for free.’ I could see Ragnar grip his stave until his knuckles turned white. I pulled set my arrow and pulled my bow. Ragnar told them he would not pay.”

The girls stared at their grandmother with rapt attention.

“You will pay or turn around, peasant. The soldiers from the other side of the ford were listening to their comrade. Ragnar raised his stave. I’ll give you this if you don’t let us pass. The marshal’s men pulled their swords as the others on the other side began to cross. Ragnar swung back and hit the lead man with his stave. Then it was chaos. I pulled my bow but the men were too close together for me to shoot.”

“You were very brave, Grandma,” little Denise’s eyes shone. Elsa thought about how terrified she’d been. “Perhaps, little one. So your grandfather was in the fight of his life, his stave against swords. Steven, Jamie and Dale were also fighting hard. The five soldiers from the other side of the ford were nearly at the fight. I had to stop them or my friends would be outnumbered two to one and them with swords and armor.”

“You shot them!” Corrine said.

“I did.” Elsa’s stomach churned at the memory of the sound of her arrows slamming into the soldier’s chests but she didn’t stop firing until all five of them were down, screaming and writhing on the ground. She swallowed. “That gave Ragnar and our friends the time they needed to overcome the soldiers.”

“You saved the day, Grandma.” Denise grinned.

“I suppose so. That’s what the people cheered later as we went from town to town.”

“You were a hero,” Corrine nodded.

Elsa never felt like a hero. She had only wanted to raise children and work the farm. “Perhaps. As any man or woman is who fights for what they believe.” She shook off the memories of long ago. Ragnar had been dead these last ten years. “Time for bed, little ones. Enough of ancient stories.”

The girls unwrapped from their blanket, Corrine bringing it with her to their bed in the loft. Elsa tucked them in. “Sleep well.” She kissed each of them on the forehead.

“I’m going to be a hero someday,” Corrine said.

“Me, too,” Denise chimed in.

Elsa shuddered with the memories of all of the battles she’d fought in. “Dream of peace, girls. Being a hero is over-rated.”

Back in her chair she stared into the fire. All of that blood and death and for what? The King sent a new marshal and order was restored but it didn’t last. The old King died and the prince became king. Things became worse than ever.

She tossed another stick on the fire and picked up her knitting. The girls grew so fast new socks were needed every three months. Rumor had it that a new band was fighting back. The Protectors people were calling them. Elsa wished them well. If they lived through it they’d need help to bury the bad memories and live their lives in peace. She hoped they’d find it.

 

 

The End

937 Words

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