Star Dust II – Hidden Truth

This week’s writing prompt: Your main character looks up at the night sky and begins pondering life. Thinking back, this character whispers to him or herself, “To this day, I still regret that.” What had happened?

**********

Anderson parked the car near the clearing where he landed two hundred years ago and looked out at the beautiful land. Twilight was approaching and the land looked bathed in gold and reds and yellows. Far in the horizon he could just make out the outlines of the mountains, capped white, even in early autumn. There were some greens from the evergreen trees, a few squirrels darting from tree to tree. The sky was a clear bowl of orange and reds and blues, with a few fat clouds here and there that looked as if they were stuffed with rainbows.

It was a peaceful place, one that brought painful memories, one he ended up always returning to.

Bradford shifted on his seat, and Anderson glanced at him, his friend and partner of many years. He’d been coming with him here for the past five years, never questioning his reasons, even if Andy could see the questions in his friend’s eyes.

Like at the moment. Before his friend could voice his thoughts out loud, Anderson opened his door and climbed out.

Bradford did the same, then began unloading the basket of food his wife had prepared for them.

By the time they finished eating the fried chicken, potato salad and the strawberry pie, darkness had fallen, a chill wind shook the nearby branches, the sound a soothing background to the noise of the night animals.

“I have a theory,” Bradford said, leaning back on his elbows, his eyes fixed up on a cluster of stars.

“Hmmm?” Andy murmured.

Brad glanced once at Andy, saw that he was paying attention, took a sip of mountain dew in a contemplative gesture. “Theoretically speaking, what would you say if you worked for the FBI and whenever there was a rumored altercation in a lab, your partner was always absent?”

Anderson shifted and looked at Brad, thinking about the three lab breaks he’d done to investigate a possible capture of ‘alien’ species. The three creatures he had helped escape weren’t from his planet, but he had understood their plea nonetheless. There was no accusation, no judgment in his partner’s eyes, but Anderson knew Brad had an excellent poker face.

“Coincidence?” He ventured, though his heart had picked up a faster rhythm.

Brad grunted, then returned his gaze up to the stars. “How about if that partner travelled every year to a place on the anniversary where the sight of a spaceship has been catalogued more than two hundred years ago? Theoretically speaking, I mean.”

“A nature lover?”

“Oh yeah.” Brad said, still looking up at the sky. “And if this person has been your partner for more than ten years and hasn’t aged a bit?”

“Good genes?” Anderson replied, though he was now kicking himself for being so careless. Bradford was nothing but thorough, with a clever and cunning mind. How could he have gotten so comfortable around him? Could he attack his friend, his best friend, if he made a move to restrain him? Could Brad do that to him?

Brad shifted to look at Anderson then, his eyes conveying nothing of what was going through his mind. “And sometimes when you catch that partner unaware, there’s this flash of a silver glow in his eyes.”

Andy shrugged nonchalantly. “Probably just the trick of the light.” He said, then looked back at the sky, dismissing the topic.

Bradford turned to the sky as well, falling silent for a long moment. “You know,” He finally spoke, his voice just a decibel above a murmur, “I wouldn’t have minded being partnered to someone who wasn’t – ordinary, as long as he was a scrupulous person with a strong code of honor.”

“Is this your way of telling me you’d rather have an alien as a partner than me?” Andy asked jokingly, his heart squeezing hard, but Brad didn’t smile.

“I would have liked to know what space looked like, the planet where he came from, if he ever regretted coming here.” After a pregnant pause that Andy refused to acknowledge, Bradford stood, excused himself. Anderson heard him tapping on his phone, heard the “hello’ when Julie, his eight year old daughter picked at the other end.

Anderson watched Brad move away, then looked back at the sky and pondered Brad’s question.

If he had stayed home in his planet, if the world hadn’t exploded into nothing but small rocks and gas, the responsibility of the entire planet would have landed on his shoulders. He’d have never known the beauty of this planet, the endless possibilities and all the things he had discovered, through trial and error, and become the person he was today.

It had been Tranal, his mentor, who had drilled and planted all the seeds that had grown and shaped the man that he was today.

He didn’t regret the fact that he was just another person, that he hadn’t become the great ruler that Tranal had trained him to be. He still searched for any survivors of his planet, but it was no longer the single minded, feverish action of a desperate person.

He recalled that last glimpse of the fire, the fliers, the green figure so far away.

If he could just go back in time, would he have left without Tranal, his mentor, the only father he had ever known?

Andy heard Brad’s chuckle, the trilling laughter of Julie on the other side and knew his answer.

“To this day, I still regret that.” He whispered to the stars.

**********

This prompt Is a continuation of a previous prompt, Star Dust’ – a story about how Anderson happened to arrive on earth.

To read more about Bradford Bonvera, check ‘Second Chance Mushroom’ and ‘Alien Lord’.

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The Culann warriors (writing prompt – short story)

This week’s writing prompt –  Write a short passage that ends with: In that moment, fully committed to helping each other, they raised a glass to their new adventure.

 

 

The culann competition

 

Alan Wilyhame left his home that morning knowing he’d return a changed man. He’d come back to the city only for the competition and the small hovel his parents had prepared for him already felt like home.

Could he find the strength to leave again if he lost?

He’d been dubbed ‘Wily the lucky’ before he left the city a decade ago, even though he had been born to peasants. His father was the assistant of the blacksmith, his mother a mere servant in the emperor’s castle.

as A kid, he’d grown running wild in the emperor’s home with the emperor’s niece and Robin Dotho, the eldest of the

Archduke’s son. They had been inseparable then, and he’d even received some of his warrior’s trainings from the best. Later when his option had been either leave or risk his family getting tossed to the streets, he’d asked none other then Linus himself to sponsor his training somewhere else. He’d been granted apprenticeship amidst the Monara tribe, to be trained by the best of the warriors.

Yes, considering his peasant’s status, Wily was lucky.

Wily could hear the roar of the crowd from two miles away. His heart thumped as hard as his steps, his adrenaline spiked as he moved nearer to the arena.

As expected, the arena was full to capacity, the competition one that happened only once every decade.

He scanned the crowd once, noting the location of all high ranking people present, cataloguing their position even as he moved.

He nodded to two of the competitors, both wearing gleaming armors with no dents or scratches. But he knew if they were both here today to compete, the gleaming armor only meant they had enough money and power to discard whatever battle worn clothes they didn’t want.

Every warrior in the empire was welcomed to compete, though only the best made to this level. And he was lucky, Wily supposed, that he had been trained by the best.

He passed one more competitor and automatically began to nod – and froze when he recognized the dark eyes and dark hair, worn loose about broad shoulders.

Robin Dotho, the boy he hadn’t seen for over a decade.

Their eyes met and held for a brief instant, then Dotho inclined his head once in acknowledgement. Immediately Wily searched the arena, and sure enough, there she was, seated beside her uncle, the emperor.

Porscha.

Wily looked back at Robin, but he had resumed his warm up. Had he recognized him from the scrawny boy he had once been?

Out of the forty five contestants who had arrived on the first day, only seven had made to this final test of endurance. Seven doors stood behind each contestant, each leading to a different dimension. The obstacles had been prepared by the best of the best sorcerers in the empire, tailored to every individual’s weakness and expertise.

the moment The horn blew, Wily turned and placed a hand on the cold knob of the door. To the wildly cheering spectators, the dimensional portal looked like a normal door, standing in the middle of an arena, nothing in front of it, nothing behind it.

Wily glanced a few doors down, found Robin already stepping through. He glanced back to where Porscha sat, her eyes focused entirely on Robin, a huge white tiger seated beside her.

The horn blew again, and with a deep breath, Wily opened the door and stepped inside. At first he thought his door was malfunctioning, because all he did was cross the threshold. He was still in the arena.

But the moment the door closed behind him, everything disappeared.

It was snowing. Everything was white. Everywhere he looked, snow fell in sheets.

How could this be it? He wondered, beginning to warm himself. He was an elemental, what the witches of Monara liked to call a fire mage.

He warmed himself enough that the snow melted before touching him, that his steps left wet footprints behind.

The sound of the wind was loud, a harsh symphony above his hammering heart.

There should have been a threat here, something that would test his endurance. Instead . . .  This was all there was.

But Wily was no fool, and so he unsheathed his sword – a gift from Linus – scanning everything, even if everything was nothing more than snow.

His steps crunched and hissed, The wind howled with impatience and fury. He was wet, but at least he was warm.

About fifteen minutes later Wily began to wonder if this was really it. Were they testing how long he could ward off the cold?

The thought had just crossed his mind when he sensed motion. He ducked and rolled, jumped to his feet and searched.

And searched.

There.

Something was moving. It was white, covered with snow, blending smoothly with the background. If he didn’t keep focused, he would miss it. If he focused too hard, it would blend with the background.

Then the thing sprang up – closer than Wily thought – gleaming white teeth and claws bared, eyes as white as everything else. Wily had a scant of a second to dodge, bringing his sword horizontal against the . . . Snow beast. It changed course mid-motion, avoiding the sharper edge of the blade, falling on all fours and turning to face Wily in one swift motion.

Clever, Wily thought before the beast was on him again.

He dodged, parried and kicked with his boot, feeling the bite of sharp claws on flesh when the beast caught his leg. He pulled against the pain – a mistake – and stood, sword in hand.

When it came again, wily aimed for the bloody claws, his sword arm zinging with the shock of the impact.

The howl of the beast was like that of the wind, furious and loud. A trickle of pale pink began gushing from the wound on the beast’s foreleg, and Wily centered himself.

When it came again, Wily aimed above the pink, felt the bite of claws go through armor and into his shoulder, even as he felt his sword connect. Both beast and man jumped away, one bleeding pink, the other bright red. He’d caught the beast on the massive shoulder, and noticed the creature kept upright, balancing on his hind legs.

They circled each other, both wounded, both trying to find a way to attack and avoid further injuries.

Tilting his head to the side, Wily stopped, the beast mimicking.

He waited, and when the beast charged, Wily brought a column of flame to the left, dodged to the right. As he’d hoped, the beast followed the flame, exposing its back. It realized its mistake fast, tried to correct, but Wily’s sword was already coming down upon the neck.

The moment the blade went through, the ground opened up and Wily began to fall. He had the sense of rocks, darkness and – and something sharp approaching, and without any way to stop the fall, Wily pushed with his feet and hands, aiming away. He landed with a painful jar on his wounded shoulder, just a breath away from a dozen sharp spikes embedded on the ground.

He’d known some of the contestants never made home from this final test, but Wily had always assumed they had been too stubborn and prideful to use the amulet that would forfeit the competition and send them back to the arena safe. It had never occurred to him that some of them might not have had the time to break the amulet and make that choice.

Wily stood slowly, his legs shaking – either from the fall or the loss of blood. Or the close call, he thought as he scanned the area surrounding him.

If he’d pushed to the other side, he’d have fallen on a scatter of nails, their tips obscured by something dark. Wily knelt by it, examined the tips without touching them. A dark green substance covered the nails, darker around the tips. There was a faint smell of something pungent wafting from it.

Poison, no doubt, though none he could name.

He’d been lucky, he realized as he stood. Above, there were no traces of the white landscape or the snow, the sky was as dark as sin.

Was he in a large chamber or another world –night time?

Wily sidestepped the spikes and no sooner had he taken a step forward then he heard a loud swoosh. He ducked and rolled, hoping to God he didn’t land in a ditch full of spikes or poisoned nails.

He saw the giant lance that passed by him, felt the faint breeze it produced. He stayed where he was for a moment more, and sure enough, the lance returned, the trajectory shorter this time.

It moved back and forth, like a pendulum for a few minutes, until it finally stopped. Wily stood then, more careful now, and studied the lance pendulum. There was nothing holding it suspended a few inches above the ground.

It was sorcery.

Wily looked back at the spikes, the nails and lance. No wonder those who made through the competition without breaking the amulet were raised to a higher rank and so sought after – spoken so highly about.

The culann warriors, they were called.

There hadn’t been a winner in five decades, and four before that. In fact, Linus had been the only man to come through the competition in the past century.

Wily became aware of a chittering, a tingling sensation, and then a small prick on his leg. When he glanced down, he realized he was covered with ants, and hurriedly he began dusting himself off. Another sting, then another, then a few hundred together.

He yelped, jumped from one foot to another, the impact causing the gashes on his legs to ache and burn something fierce. He undressed in record time, noticing every inch of his body was covered with ants . . . No, not ants, he realized. Miniature scorpions.

Panicking, Wily heated himself so fast, so hard; his body went up in a blaze.

The scent of scorched scorpion filled the air, but once Wily tampered down, there was no longer anything crawling over his body. However, his body was dotted with reddish bumps that itched and burned when he did.

He had to get out of there.

After killing a few tiny scorpions hidden in his armor, Wily dressed quickly, determined to get this competition over with. With the amulet ready in one hand, his sword in the other, Wily began carefully moving forward, his eyes and ears attent to every sound, every small shadow.

He heard as well as felt the tremors that shook the ground beneath him. He searched, back and forth, front and back for a few tense seconds before he saw the slight motion of something approaching to his left. Fast, it was so fast.

Wily didn’t pause to think, he turned to the right and ran, dodging and jumping obstacles as he went: a dark puddle of something that moved; a spike that flew out of nowhere, straight at his middle, a hole full of hissing snakes.

The rumble became deafening, like one continuous bolt of thunder, and Wily had to look, had to see what kind of herd was after him.

And it was no herd, but a multitude of rocks.

And it was almost upon him. Ahead, there was no place to go. He’d be buried in no time, unable to breathe or move.

Amulet still gripped in one hand, Wily promised himself he’d break it with his first misstep and turned, meeting the avalanche head on. He jumped on the first rock, climbing the avalanche even as it fell. He’d barely touch a rock before he was jumping on the next and the next and the next, all the while the amulet clutched in his hand, ready to take him back to the arena.

But the rocks slowed, and although Wily began feeling the adrenaline of triumph, he didn’t stop, didn’t slacken his pace.

Soon he was atop the quiet rocks, his breathing harsh in his ears, the tinkling of small pebbles coming as if from very far away.

He looked around him, a smile slowly breaking over his face, until he was whooping with laughter and triumph.

———-

An hour later, Wily came upon a small opening to his left and hesitated. After the avalanche he’d evaded a multitude of scorpions – each the size of a foot, a herd of carnivorous bats and a horned monster that laughed like a sick hyena.

He was bruised and hurt and exhausted beyond belief. Even his wounds had wounds.

He traced a thumb over the facet of the amulet that he still held in one slimy hand and studied the opening. He was sure he’d find something nasty on the other side, and he wasn’t sure if he was up to par with it.

He could break the amulet now and go back to the arena – forfeit the competition. He recalled all the horrors he’d been through since he stepped into that door and shook his head. Not without trying, he told himself and ducked into the cave.

The moment he stepped into the large chamber, his heart sank. Three giant creatures with spiked backs and tentacles turned to glare at him at the same time. Beyond them was a wooden door similar to the one he had stepped through in the arena. The only difference was the symbol of the culann hound boldly emblazoned on the dark wood.

The chamber was lit with small torches, the ceiling a mess of uneven rocks that jutted like upside down overgrown mushrooms. The ground was made of hard packed earth, the air thick with the scent of mold.

The three giants began moving toward him, their steps reverberating through the ground. The tentacles on their sides moved up and down, like excited individuals jumping at a joyful event.

Wily sheathed his sword and conjured a thin stream of flame. It dropped like a coil to the ground, and Wily heard one of the creature’s chuckle, a sound that rumbled off the walls.

He pulled and pulled on his reserve, gritting his teeth when the process became painful, and when he deemed it enough, he raised his hand high and began making a circling motion, the fire now a lasso of flames.

When Wily charged, the creatures paused, watching him with curious uncertainty. He veered off to the right and the creature on the right moved to the side, the tentacles still jumping up and down.

When wily thought he was close enough to the wall, he through the lasso at one of the upside down mushrooms, feeling a frisson of fear when he thought the lasso would come up short. But the flames caught and coiled around the rock, holding taught against the base. He jumped, running a few yards horizontally on the uneven wall, high enough that he was eye level with the creatures.

When he jumped back on the ground, he was only a few yards away from the door. Without breaking his pace he kept running toward it, hearing one of the creatures cry in outrage, followed by the thumps of running steps approaching.

Wily reached the door well ahead of the creatures, but there was no handle he could use to open it, and with a cry of frustration Wily thumped at the hound’s head, again and again. But the door didn’t open.

Turning, he pressed against the door, his heart a wild beat, his breathing fast. He drew his sword, ready to fight – or break the amulet.

He’d been so close, he thought as the closest giant reached for him.

That’s when the door gave and Wily fell through, butt down on the arena’s ground.

———-

Alan Wilyhame sat beside the emperor on the seat of honor. He’d been patted and praised like a hero who’d won a battle single handedly. On the other side of the emperor sat Robin Dotho, the only other contestant to make out of the arena. No one else had come out, either through the door or by the amulet.

Wily shook hands with high ranking officials and socialites, and even Dotho’s mother, the archduchess who had been the cause of the friend’s separation grudgingly shook his hand.

They ate and celebrated until the dark hours of the night, and before dispensing, the emperor called both man to the side and announced their first assignment: to investigate a disturbance deep in the forbidden lands.

The agreement was on Wily’s tongue when Porscha appeared out of nowhere and interrupted.

“If the two do not think you can work as a team,” She began in a moderate tone, “I am sure my uncle the emperor can assign something else?” She aimed the end at the emperor, and taken aback, he assessed the situation.

Wily glanced sideways at Dotho, regret filling his heart. He’d known he’d hurt his friends with his abrupt departure, but he fully believed he’d had no choice at the time.

Straightening, he told himself if he had this time with Dotho without the archduchess to interrupt, he could bring his friend around – to at least understand, if not forgive.

“I can work as a team if he has no problem.”

Dotho stared at him for a long time, his black eyes unfathomable. Wily began to wonder if Dotho was going to refuse when he inclined his head in agreement.

“I can work as a team.”

“Excellent.” The emperor clapped. “let’s cheer to the new adventure to come.”

The two old friends looked at each other and accepted the drinks Porscha passed around.

In that moment, fully committed to helping each other, they raised a glass to their new adventure.

 

Lucky day (writing prompt – short story)

Lucky Day

A letter arrived, and the news was not good.
Duncan crumpled the letter in his hand and let it drop to the floor. Marriage to the neighboring kingdom, to strengthen an alliance.
To none other than the Brombar princess.
Duncan clenched his teeth so hard, his jaws ached. He wanted to roar in protest, to punch something – to refuse.
But the order had come from the emperor himself, and with the empire and neighboring kingdom at the brink of war, it wasn’t a light decision to make.
Duncan heard the light footsteps approaching, the silent click of big paws behind it. Not wanting to meet with anyone, he jumped out the balcony, beating his wings hard as he took to the sky.
He flew high and fast, letting the wind direct his course, taking him farther away.
For hours he flew, above the glittering waters of the bayou, the rocky ridges of the Lorett cliffs, the valleys of the Monara.
When his wings tired, he lowered to the ground, near a bubbling stream of clear water. There, at the edge of the chirping forest, Duncan finally sat to rest and think.
He heard a screech far in the distance, answered by a few of the mocking apes nearest. Birds sang along a peaceful symphony, squirrels chattered as they gathered supplies.
The way he saw it, he had two choices. He could either refuse or accept.
But he had been the one to suggest an alliance at the beginning and to refuse it now would make him a man of no honor. No, the alliance was a good strategy; he just hadn’t expected the emperor to offer him as the groom.
The apes screeched again and Duncan took notice.
What were they mimicking?
He waited for the sound to come again, and when it did, he stood, turned to the forest, his grey eyes narrowing. The apes mimicked the sound – a woman’s shout of fear.
Duncan took to the skies, his eyes searching through the canopy below, listening for the shout to come again.
He banked left when he heard it, landed softly atop a pile of mildewed leaves, his hand going for the hilt of his sword. Wings tucked tight, he prowled forward, following the sounds of scuffling and male taunting, until he could make out three figures through the branches and brambles ahead.
Two Jasmere warriors held a woman with one of their snake lasso’s, the poisonous spikes on their heads shaking with mirth at her feeble attempts to stab them with a small dagger.
Duncan assessed the situation quickly. He wanted no quarrel with the Jasmere warriors, knowing to insult one was to invoke the wrath of the entire tribe. He touched a hand to the pouch of gold on his side, knew it wouldn’t be enough.
The warrior on the left tugged at the lasso and the woman fell, though admirably, she didn’t lose her dagger. He knew, even if he couldn’t see, that there were miniature spikes in the lasso – like snake fangs capable of releasing poisonous fluids – if the warrior wished it so.
The woman stabbed up at the warrior on the right and the second one guffawed at his companion.
They were playing with her, Duncan knew, for the jasmere’s were fierce warriors, those you’d want on your back on times of war.
So Duncan stepped into view with an easy pace, making enough noise so not to surprise the warriors. When both warriors turned to look at him, Duncan paused. The woman took advantage of the moment and tried to flee, but a careless tug at the lasso and she was down again.
Duncan chuckled, as if the woman’s futile struggles were comical, then nodded at the warriors.
“Looks like you caught a feisty one.” He commented, crouching to look straight at the woman.
He studied her profile, something inside him jolting at her beauty. Her wide, dark blue eyes stared defiantly back at him, her long, auburn hair fluttered with the soft wind. Her cheeks were high and pink, her complexion glowed like moonlight beams.
“She’s ours” One of the jasmere warriors said, blocking his view.
The woman tried to stab the warrior’s leg, but without looking at her he stepped aside, then kicked the dagger out of her hand. She cried out in pain, but neither warrior turned to look.
Instead of drawing his sword and cutting the warrior’s leg off, Duncan stood, his sheepish smile lopsided. “Ah, wish I had come this way sooner.” He placed his hands inside his trousers pocket to show the warriors he planned no sneak attack. And to keep himself from drawing his sword.
Neither of the warriors relaxed.
Duncan shrugged a shoulder. “Is she for ransom?” He asked.
The jasmere warriors looked at each other, then back at him. The whiskers on their faces twitched a few times. “If she was worth a ransom she would not be in this part of the woods.” The warrior on the left chuffed.
“Or without guards to escort her.” The other piped in.
Duncan nodded. It was true enough. And the fact she wore peasant clothes only fortified her lowly status.
He turned to leave, casually saying, “I’d pay for a serving wench that looks like that.” He placed his hand on the pouch of gold at his side, shaking his head in mock sorrow. “Pity she’s not for sale.” He ignored the flash of ire in her eyes and turned to leave.
“Wait,” one of the warriors called, and Duncan paused.
“Ay?”
“You say you would pay for this serving wench?”
Duncan looked down at the woman, her face red with embarrassment – or anger, he corrected when he looked at the fury in her eyes.
“Hmmm. How much?” He asked.
“Fifty gold coins.” The warrior on the right said.
Duncan paused, considering, then shook his head regretfully. “I don’t think I have that much.” Not even close, he thought. He touched the emerald ring he had on his finger, his only other valuable besides his sword, shook his head again. “I suppose this day is just not my lucky day.” He said and began making his way back to the woods.
Just as Duncan thought he’d need to barter his sword away, one of the Jasmere warriors called him back.
“You can give us whatever coins you have in the pouch.”
“And the ring.” The other one added.
Duncan paused then turned, his expression thoughtful. The jasmere’s were mercenary soldiers who valued their word and gold above all else.
Duncan jiggled the pouch of gold, contemplating, frowned down at the woman – now reaching for her dagger, her wrist already swollen red.
“I’m not sure. Is she damaged?”
“She’s alive.” The warrior on the left chuffed.
“But can she move? I do not want a wench who is in need of care.”
The warrior on the right tugged hard at the lasso. “Up.” He snapped, and with a cry, the woman stood.
Duncan had the urge to snap the neck of the warrior, but instead, he chuckled, shaking his head.
“See? She is upright.”
Duncan nodded. “Ay, that she is.” He unlaced the pouch of gold, passed them the twelve coins he had inside it, along with three silver ones.
“And the ring?” the warrior on the left asked.
Duncan frowned down at it. It had been a gift from Porscha, purchased from the mortal land. Duncan pulled it out and handed it to the warrior. “You better be worth it,” he muttered in annoyance to the woman.
Both warriors chuckled – a grating noise that annoyed Duncan thoroughly – and stepped back, the snake lasso dissolving as they did.
The moment the lasso was off, the woman turned and fled into the forest. She was so fast; Duncan saw nothing but a blur.
The Jasmere warriors burst out laughing, the sound like high pitched bleating, then they shook the gold coins at Duncan, turned in the opposite direction and disappeared into the deep forest.
Sighing, Duncan took to the skies. This had definitely not been his lucky day.
———-
Duncan slouched on his seat of honor beside the emperor. The delegation was soon to arrive, and an image of the Brombar King, his horned head and grayish skin kept playing in Duncan’s head. Would the princess look like the king? Wasn’t there a rumor about the king refusing to throw her a debut party back . . . seven, eight years ago because he was afraid no one would offer for her hand? If it were true, that made her what, twenty and four, twenty and five?
Duncan shifted, sighing.
Porscha suddenly appeared and knelt in front of him, her face exuberant, belying the concern that showed in her green eyes. “Uncle Linus says you’ve been moping for the past two days.”
Duncan scowled at her but said nothing.
She shifted her gaze toward her eldest uncle – the emperor, busily chatting away with uncle Linus then lowered her voice, “were you not the one who suggested joining of both lands?”
Duncan’s wings shifted in a shrug, though the motion wasn’t the usual arrogant gesture she was used to seeing. Foo, Porscha’s faithful white tiger raised her massive paws onto Duncan’s thighs then lowered her head atop them. After a moment, Duncan began petting the cat, his other hand still clutching the forgotten drink someone had passed to him.
“You know, I heard the Brombar princess was not happy with her father’s decree either.” When Duncan didn’t react, she leaned against his leg and added, “The servants said there’s a rumor about the princess fleeing the castle when the king refused to listen to her protest.”
This got a reaction. Duncan’s posture straightened and his eyes narrowed down at her.
“Is that true?” He could handle the ridicule, he thought.
Porscha shrugged with a smile, her dimple appearing. “The delegation was seen approaching, so no, I do not think so.” Porscha reached to scratch Foo behind the ear and chuckled. “Maybe they replaced the princess with the daughter of the stable master. Who would know? No one has ever met her before.”
Duncan growled in frustration.
Porscha read the brief flare of hope in her mentor’s eyes and sighed. “You know, her mother comes from the Monara witch tribes. Perhaps you will get lucky and the Brombar princess looks like her mother’s people.”
An image of dark blue eyes flashed in his mind. He had searched the forest to make sure the woman reached safety unbothered, but found no traces of her anywhere. Duncan shifted, dislodging both cat and woman, but the moment he settled, both resumed their place.
Porscha opened her mouth to speak but Duncan cut her off.
“Kid, if you do not shut up, I am going to bother myself to move to the balcony and throw you out the side.”
Porscha opened her eyes wide. “But I don’t have any wings.”
“Exactly.”
Porscha laughed – that bright sound of the child he had helped to raise. He smiled reluctantly down at her, tugging at the ends of her hair the way he did when she was smaller, and that’s how the delegation and the princess of Brombar saw him: smiling down at a gorgeous redhead with green eyes who was practically sitting on his lap.
———
Duncan was lucky. Or more or less, he guessed. The princess of Brombar indeed looked like her mother’s people. They sat across each other at the long raised table, and Duncan couldn’t stop staring at the dark blue eyes of the woman from the forest. She sat stiffly, teeth gritted, eyes shooting daggers at him.
Duncan smiled at her, using his rakish, charming smile. The daggers turned into ice, the look became murderous.
He chuckled, the sound turning into a muffled yelp when Porscha kicked his leg hard under the table.
He sobered, but the relief inside him was too great. There would be plenty of work ahead, perhaps even some groveling to do, but he could handle a murderous woman, he told himself and saluted when the king finished his speech.
“To a peaceful future.” He called.

The Seelie’s spring ball

This week’s writing prompt: Using no more than 50 words, write one sentence describing a room in as much detail as possible.

The Seelie’s spring ball

The ceiling was topped with a golden dome, the color reflecting softly off the gleaming white marble of the floors, while giving an eerie light to the guests who crowded the throne room, dressed in suits and gowns in different colors that glittered and sparkled as they danced and twirled.

The Emperor’s right hand (writing prompt short story)

This week’s writing prompt: Think of a mysterious or shady incident in your character’s past. When confronted about it, he explains it was a misunderstanding. What’s the incident?

 

The emperor’s right hand

 

Porscha moved through the foliage like a predator, her steps as silent as the white tiger that prowled beside her.

She was aware of everything surrounding her, the insects that buzzed, the birds that trilled far above the canopy, the reptiles that crawled underneath the mildewed leaves, the verdant scents in the air.

Near the edge of the forest, where greenery became a rocky wasteland and no trees grew, she paused and crouched beside her pet, watched the man far ahead.

The lord of deceit, they called him. Cunning, clever, powerful . . . deceitful.

She watched as he threw a log at the simmering fire, began tying game, freshly skinned and cleaned on to a long spit.

Behind him stood a crudely built barracks, about the size of her bedroom back home. The sky looked grey and grim, as lacking of life as the land beyond the forest, the man who lived there.

Porscha watched the man for a long time, long enough for the meat to cook, the man to start eating. Be patient, observe your quarry, uncle Linus had always instructed her.

“I know you’re there,” the man’s deep voice suddenly boomed, startling Porscha. “Come on out where I can see you.”

Foo growled low in her throat, the sound muffled by the rustling of the canopy above.

Caught, Porscha petted Foo on the head, silencing her before stepping out from behind the trees.

The Lord of Deceit looked up then, his grey eyes as piercing as an arrow head. Porscha thought she caught surprise in his eyes, but it could have been for the white tiger that stepped beside her, moved in tandem with her. She paused across the small fire from him, inclined her head in acknowledgement. She sensed Foo’s hunger at the scent of meat, promised her she’d let her hunt one of the dears they had spotted aways back in the Forrest.

“My name is Porscha,” She declared in the hotly tone Uncle Linus had so desperately tried to tame. “This is Foo.” She added, placing a soothing hand over the tiger’s head.

The lord of deceit inclined his head at her, tilted it sideways at the cat.

His hair was long and unkempt, his beard likewise.

“I come on behest of the emperor,” Porscha announced.

“What he wants now?” Royce, the Lord of Deceit asked with a full mouth. He wiped a hand over the juice that he let drip on his beard, smeared it more. He didn’t see disgust in the green of her eyes, no condemnation either. Tearing a leg from the rabbit, Royce threw the tiger a piece, who admirably didn’t even glance at it.

“I need to ask you a few questions.” Porscha said, “About the mutants.” She watched as the piercing eyes suddenly turned cold, felt her heart skip a beat.

“Nothing to tell you. It happened a long time ago.” He spat at the fire, watched as it sizzled dry. Again, no reaction from the woman or the cat.

———-

It took some time, the mentioning of the daughter that had gone missing ten years ago during the time when the first mutants had appeared, but Porscha finally convinced the Lord of Deceit to talk.

“It was . . . a misunderstanding?”

“Ay, a misunderstanding,” Royce replied with eyes as frosty as a heavy winter, “a misjudge of character.”

Realization suddenly dawned, and Porscha stiffened up. “Accusing the emperor’s right hand is a serious accusation.”

Royce’s grey eyes met hers and held. “I was the emperor’s right hand ten years ago.”

“You never defended yourself. You were caught inside the lab mixing potions, a mutant strapped on the slab in front of you, others in cages.”

Royce’s hand clenched at the memory, his heart ached with the pain. “I was approached that morning by Don. He told me my daughter had been taken, gave me the location of the lab. I tore like a daemon to the place, ignored the advice to wait for the cavalry, the way he knew I would. There were four mutants in the cages . . . each one the exact size of my daughter. I didn’t know what to do at first. Then, like an invitation, the reverse formula was open on the working bench. The ingredients were all there.” Porscha watched grief enter his eyes, the faint echo of the pain he must have felt. “Then the cavalry was pouring in, taking me into custody. I protested, I did. Then Don walked in with the emperor, his expression filled with shock and betrayal.” Royce’s eyes met Porscha, searched for the disbelief that wasn’t there. “This doesn’t surprise you.”

Porscha inclined her head once. “I can speak to animals. I understand what they say. The mutants, they aren’t animals, but I can get a vague notion of what they project. I know you didn’t do it.”

Royce looked away, composed his expression before looking back. “I was banished from the city, because Don begged the emperor not to kill me.”

“And now he’s the emperor’s right hand.” Porscha said softly.

Royce dusted his hands and stood. “There you go. That’s all I have to say.”

Porscha stood as well. “Aren’t you going to help me?”

“No.”

———-

Royce kept his pace even with Porscha’s. He felt awkward being surrounded by this many people after his ten year isolation, though his movement and posture showed only the predatory confidence he had once exhibited like a second skin. His sorcerer’s staff, a thin, wooden stave his wife Eleanor had carved by hand for him was secure on the loop around his hip, his ritual dagger on the other side. He still couldn’t believe that he was doing this, but the woman had a point. He was, after all, one of the top three most powerful sorcerers in this entire world. The second one was Don, the third the emperor himself. And if the emperor died in this task, the entire empire would fall under Don’s thumb.

 

Some of the citizens they passed definitely recognized him, because those gave him a wide berth.

They reached the scourge of the city, kept going even as the buildings ended. Passed the last farm, passed the last crops, the trees. Then suddenly Porscha stopped and Royce searched the empty darkness. There, to the side, were strange scufflings on the ground. He moved forward slowly, searched the pattern that ended, for no reason at all, beside a large rock, the size of a large stool. He circled it, understanding what this was.

Unhooking his staff from the hoop, Royce pointed it at the rock, drew a small circle of light around it. Immediately symbols began to glow, runes of protection, sigils that would emit a high pitched sound once broken.

Without a word, he began to unmake it, careful to reverse the order so as not to break the pattern.

It took time, but finally the entrance to the underground lab was open, and without any hesitations, both he and Porscha climbed into it, Foo jumping in behind them.

The tunnel they entered was carved from the rock, the signs of the chisel showing like deep grooves in places. They didn’t have to move far before the tunnel opened into a big chamber, filled with tools, herbs, pots, shelves. A large, round table centered the room, cluttered with notes and quilts and pens and jars.

On the opposite side was another doorway, and silently they entered it, Royce at the led, Foo on the back. A few feet in Royce stopped, raised a fist to keep Porscha from talking.

She heard it then, the footsteps of a person, the muttered words of a man. Recognized Don’s voice, felt a shiver of cold run down her back, a thrill of anger course through her body. She didn’t draw the short sword from her side, knowing it would make enough noise to announce their presence. She trusted she had enough time to draw it when the time came, after all, she had been trained by the two best swordsmen in the empire.

They entered another large room, this one like a hospital, with metal gurneys pushed against the far wall. Underneath a strong light was another gurney, a child no older than eight strapped to it, while Don, still looking like he hadn’t aged a second, stood beside it, pen and clipboard in his hands.

His head rose slowly up as Porscha and Royce entered, his gleaming brown eyes showing no fear, no surprise. Porscha had no idea how she could have missed ever seeing that insane gleam in them before, but to be fair, she wasn’t a court woman.

“Royce.” Don said before shifting to Porscha. “And the insane Linus niece. How delightful.” He began to lower the clipboard, the pen, and unbelievably, used the pen as a mini staff to send a pulse wave at them.

Both Royce and Porscha flew back, hitting the wall with a painful jar, and before Don could send another pulse wave, Royce hit the butt of his staff on the ground, making the entire underground lab shake.

Don stumbled back, losing whatever momentum he had gathered. Royce jumped up nimbly, began to advance on his oldest friend and enemy.

He circled his staff in the air, once, twice, lowered it like a whip at the emperor’s right hand. He had no mercy, no desire to spare, or prolong this so long overdue revenge. The flash of the whip hit an invisible barrier, and Don laughed loud and manically. He had been training as well, Royce realized. He raised his other hand in the air, closed tight a fist. The flash began to circle the barrier, searching for holes, cracks, any small weakness in the shield. It pulsed as it tried to penetrate through it. Royce heard the glee in the maniacal laughter just as the flash began to sip through.

Don’s mirth cut off abruptly, and a loud, piercing whistle took its place.  Porscha stumbled away, her hand gripping her head. A small compartment opened on the far wall and a mutant jumped out, followed by another one, than another one. No, not a compartment, but a large cage.

Three of them targeted Royce while another three went for Porscha. Yet more poured out of the cage, seven, eight, nine.

Foo leaped to her mistress’s defense, and Royce couldn’t help but direct the whip at the mutant closest. It hit its small body like a knife, cutting the thing in half. The sharp claws convulsed as the body fell, its wide mouth frozen on a snarl, showcasing sharp piranha like teeth.

But it still resembled a child, at least in Royce’s mind, and with horror he recoiled, hesitated to strike again. He thought of Lisey, his precious daughter, wondered if she was one of them, and lowered his staff.

The second mutant jumped him, biting and clawing his shoulder, his side; the third one attached itself to his leg. A fourth one appeared out of the blue, jumped onto his back. Royce let the staff drop to the floor, surrendered to the creatures.

With a shout of outrage Porscha pulled the necklace from her neck, threw it forcefully to the ground, breaking the amulet in half. At once Two figures appeared in the room, both scowling fiercely, one still chewing the last bite of whatever meal he had been eating.

Both Linus and Duncan took in the room with one sweep, assessed the situation. Duncan’s formidable wings spread wide and high, Linus’s deadly sword was out and about in less than a fraction of a second.

Duncan sprang to help Royce, buried underneath the multiple mutants, while Linus went after don, who had fled through another exit the moment both warriors had appeared.

———-

Royce stood at the wide, open terrace, watching the bustle of the city he hadn’t seen for ten years. There were bandages that pulled and itched all over his body. His mind was empty, his heart mostly numb. He heard the quiet footsteps behind him, didn’t turn to look. Didn’t care.

The emperor paused beside him, stayed silent for a few moments. “There was a journal that Don kept.” He spoke softly, not looking at the man he had completely wronged. “There was never a reverse spell.”

Royce didn’t say anything. He had already suspected that back when he had tried to perform the spell that had been left as bait for him.

The emperor cleared his throat. “In the journal we found, there were notes, names and ages and the places where the children were kidnapped from. They were from other worlds, Royce, that’s why we never heard about any missing children. Except for this one child that was taken from the schoolyard, where he noted the initials L.R.” The emperor took a deep breath, noticed that Royce held his. “This one didn’t make through the transition. The . . . date and age are right, and the description matches.”

Royce’s shoulder slumped, relief coursed through him. He still grieved for his daughter, but knowing that she had never become like those mutants lifted a crushing weight he hadn’t known he had been carrying all these years.

“Why?” Royce asked hoarsely.

The emperor looked up at the sky, down at the bejeweled city. At the man he had let his people wrongly dab the Lord of Deceit for ten years. “There was a rumor about a revolution. Some rebels. Maybe he was trying to build up an army.”

Royce nodded once, for he could see Don leading a revolution against the emperor, but he said nothing. After a moment the emperor turned and quietly left, vowing to himself he would do his best to make it up to Royce for all the pain he had gone through this past decade.

By God, he vowed he would.

 

 

Snickers, ice-cream and aliens

This week’s writing prompt: Your main character has to go through a typical day in place of you. Does hilarity ensue? Chaos? Let the chips fall where they may.

 

Sneakers, ice-cream and aliens

 

At 8:05 am Leon opened her eyes. She groaned, turned, and started to sit up. And almost snapped the neck of a child who was staring at her.

Ah, shit, she remembered in an instant the switch off. Twelve hours as a house mom while Jina took up being the enforcer of the Seelie court. Piece of cake.

She heard the whoop of a kid downstairs, followed by the protests of a little girl.

Damn, she thought. She forgot all about school.

She sat up and was shocked when the little boy climbed on her lap and stared up at her with big, soft brown eyes.

“I want snickers.”

“Oh?”

He nodded vigorously.

Unsure of what she was supposed to say or do, she decided to question the boy and see which course of action to take first.

“Are you a smart boy?”

“Uh huh.” He said and stuck a thumb in his mouth.

“So tell me, smart boy, what does mommy do first thing in the morning?”

The thumb fell, the eyes began to gleam. “Mommy helps daddy fight off alien invasions.” He pointed a chubby finger at a closed door at the far corner of the bedroom.

“Hmmm.” Leon tilted her head and looked doubtfully at the closed door for a second before placing the boy down. She stood and moved in front of the door and listened for a second, then glanced back at the boy – now silently sucking his thumb and watching her.

Alright, she thought, I’ll bite, then opened the door. It was dark inside, darker than it should have been.

She searched for a switch, found none, so Leon stepped inside the closet. The moment she did, she realized this was no closet at all. The ground was rocky, the sky dark, save for a few far away stars. And there was something moving far ahead on all fours.

The boy appeared at the still open door the moment she caught the flash of something streaming at her. She ducked, rolled, pushed the boy away.

“Hooyeah!” he exclaimed in delight.

“Stay here,” Leon hissed at him.

Pouting, the boy whined, “but I’m hungly.”

Leon caught another flash stream, this one almost hitting the door frame where she stood. “Go have that snickers, alright?” she pushed the boy away from what she realized now was a dimensional door, back into the bedroom. She waited only to make sure the boy dashed downstairs, screaming with enthusiasm at his older brother and sister something about chocolate.

Leon stepped back in the room, shut the door. It wasn’t completely dark now, she realized. She must have triggered the dimensional shift when she had entered the room.

Moving forward carefully, rocks crunching underneath her feet, she became aware that there were big rocky formations that an alien or three could hide behind. She wouldn’t have called them aliens, exactly, but creatures of another dimension.

Something cackled loudly to the far left, and Leon shifted gear and began moving towards the noise. She had barely taken a step when another stream flashed from her right. She almost didn’t duck in time before the laser beam streamed by. She felt the heat from it, searched the dark outlines for the second ‘alien’.

Then something dropped right in front of her, and even before her brain registered the grotesque image, she had conjured her sword and cut the thing in half. The light in its orange eyes faded slowly as it died, the sharp spikes on its hunched back drooped slowly. It had four hoofed legs, two of which beat feebly on the rocky ground before stilling completely.

Sword now out, Leon scanned left and right, her back and front. She could no longer see the outline of the door to the outside, but it didn’t worry her. She could always shift to the sidhe land before returning to earth and starting again.

The moment she took a step away from the downed alien it sprang to life, jumping left and right, now two instead of one. Again Leon cut both creatures, holding the sword with both hands to help the blade slice through the hard spikes.

The head of the closest creature flew far to the left before its body fell; the other one just crumpled to the ground, cut in half.

Frowning down at the hooves, Leon was about to crouch to examine it when suddenly both creatures jumped up, alive and in one piece. And now four instead of two.

Shit, multipliers.

Leon backed away from the creatures, all four bipedal despite the hooves, then pulled energy from the atmosphere, surprised at how much there was to pull. With her sword in one hand, Leon rolled her other hand, making the energy she gathered glow an electric blue before she thrust the energy at the creatures. It hit them like a nuclear bomb, making a small hole in the ground. Three were instantly pulverized, but the fourth scampered away, whimpering a high pitched noise that irritated Leon’s senses greatly. She gathered more energy, moving after the creature in a more sedate pace.

Leon spotted the mouth of a cave half covered by a dead tree branch, realized it was also the creature’s destination and tightened her pace. Suddenly three creatures fell out of thin air right in front of her. Reacting without thinking, Leon cut down the three aliens with one sweep. She cursed when they crumbled, then quickly multiplied and scattered away, so she couldn’t hit all six at once.

She threw the energy she had gathered at the nearest one, pulverizing it into dust, began gathering more energy for the remaining ones. It was amazing how much energy seemed to be in this place, but she didn’t have time to ponder that. The nearest of the hooved creatures suddenly turned around, revealing his spiked back. A spike as long as her arm flew from his back, like a lance, straight at her middle. She threw herself sideways, losing the energy she had gathered when she fell on her arm, rolled away before jumping back and to the other side.

The creature with one less spike didn’t wait for her to gather herself, but jumped on her, amazingly nimble despite the hooves, his sharp teeth aiming for her throat. Leon cut it down with her sword, cursing when it divided and multiplied.

Realizing the remaining four were also too close for her to gather enough energy, Leon cut the ones closest, and with eight creatures now, She pulled on the energy, threw it horizontally so she caught two creatures instead of one. However, the energy only cut them in half, and soon they multiplied as well.

Seriously pissed now, Leon pulled so hard from the ether she felt the world waver in front of her. She kept pulling, even as the creatures approached, nearer and nearer. When she had gathered enough and the creatures were close enough, Leon brought her hands together into a thunderous clap, dispensing so much energy at once she pulverized all the creatures in her wake, and …

“Lights!”

Leon whirled around just as blinding light suddenly filled … an empty spacious room. At the door stood Jina, her expression none Leon could describe.

-*-*-

In the kitchen downstairs, Jina sat on a stool, a mug of coffee on the table untouched in front of her. Leon chose to remain standing, posture stiff, shoulder’s straight, legs braced apart.

“My kids missed school today.”

“The alarm did not go off at six thirty.” Leon intoned hotly.

Jina inclined her head once. No doubt the craftsmanship of the eldest son.

“They ate snickers for breakfast, ice-cream and bubble gum for lunch.”

As if possible, Leon’s posture stiffened even more. “Excuse me. I was preventing aliens from invading your precious earth.”

“It’s just a holo-game.”

“It looked real to me.”

“That’s because you were in a holographic room. It manipulates all your senses. Imagery. Scents, sounds, feel, even, depending on the game or level, the sense of taste.”

A Little boy appeared at the kitchen’s door, spotted Leon and did a quick turnaround, giggling uncontrollably.

“That one, huh?”

“He looks like just a wisp of a boy, not a world class manipulator.” Leon commented.

“They often don’t. You should be glad you met my three year old first. My oldest is far more clever and craftier.” Jina sighed and studied Leon’s defensive expression. A twelve hour switch and Leon, the enforcer of the Seelie court barely managed six. And she hadn’t even typed one single sentence on the page.

“Hmmm,” Jina said, picking her cup of coffee and sipping. “I suppose my husband will be glad to know you passed that level when he returns. He’s been stuck on it for ages.”

 

 

 

Places you remember

Remember when…

 

When I was around 11 years old, my family and I went on a beach vacation to a place called Angra dos Reis (Anchor of kings) in the coast of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. For three days we explored the numerous beaches there. On the afternoon of the second day a local told my older brother about this beach called The Secret beach and gave us directions. We drove there, and parked at the shoulder of a freeway. There was only one other vehicle there, and my 11 year old excited mind didn’t wonder about that, only that there was a beach and I wanted to swim. There was a small opening by the guardrail, I remember that, covered by all the trees and foliage that went on and on and on as far as I could see.

At the opening of that guardrail were stone steps, leading down and curving, the end hidden by the greenery. So down we had gone, able to hear the waves of the beach still hidden from sight.

It was like this: descending stone steps, trees on all sides, the music of birds, scurrying animals, the scent of salty water and the green scents of a place barely touched by humanity.

The last stone step ended onto a rocky, uneven ground, edged on both sides by trees. We moved forward, and there, at the edge of the rocky ground started the sand, bleached almost white by the sun. The sky was blue, the water just a deeper shade. Trees surrounded the beach on both sides, a sweet cascade of water tinkled like soft music to my left. That’s how I remember it.

It was the best beach we had visited during that vacation. We had been the only people there that day, and I remembered I swimmed (not too far) and splashed and played with my brothers.

I am sorry though to say that today, over two decades after that trip, the beach is no longer a secret. It is still called that, The Secret Beach, but there are people, boats, small tents erected (that look permanent), and plenty of tourists.

A prompt about ‘places you remember’

http://www.damyantiwrites.com/2017/08/07/place-either-real-virtual/

brought this place to mind, and I asked a family member to see if she could find some photos for me to place it here. She found this video that showed all these boats and people and beach towels and… no secret left.

Here’s a link to a video she found on YouTube that is closest to the place I described above:

Porscha

This week’s prompt: The bridge was out…

 

Porscha

 

The bridge was out. Linus glanced at the misty trail that connected this realm with the mortal land. If they were lucky, the bridge would close before Porscha noticed it. If they were lucky.

The thought had hardly crossed his mind when he heard footsteps coming up the stairs of the airy tower.

Duncan rounded the corner, his grey eyes stormy. Linus sighed, deflating on his seat.

“Porscha has gone out to the mortal realm.” Duncan announced, dropping onto the second chair with a heavy thump. “Valerian caught her at the bridge, made her return the Pegasus.”

“Someone should explain to her the rules of the mortal realm.” Linus murmured.

“We did. Thrice already. She just thinks that a winged animal would make the crossing faster.”

Duncan’s own wings shifted upward in a shrug before settling down again.

“I wonder what she will bring back this time.” Linus mused. Both men glanced at the junkyard of microwaves, TVs, washing machines, refrigerators, an industrial air conditioner, an electric oven.

Duncan sighed, a long suffering exhalation of air.

“Did you explain about the mortal electric mode?”

“Twice. I had hoped I’d have one more chance before the bridge formed again.”

Just then they heard a loud whirring noise and both men leaned to see through the mists of the bridge. They heard Valerian shout something, drowned by the noise.

“What is that?” Linus asked.

“I’m not sure.” Duncan said, quickly summoning the intelligence boost pedia and teleporting the image into it. The pedia returned the info directly into his mind and Duncan chuckled.

“What?” Linus demanded.

“It’s a combat tank. Used for political feud between two or more rival countries. According to my pedia this heavy combat tank is used for warriors – human military personnel to attack and demolish an opposite line. See that long tube it carries?”

Linus glanced at it, frowning as the thing – tank – moved steadily toward them. “Hmmm.”

“It propels cannon balls.”

Alarm begin rising in Linus’s chest. Currently that tube was aimed slightly to the side, at the emperor’s tower. But the tank was moving directly toward them.

“But it looks like Porscha is doing something there, because according to the pedia those things move no faster than 40 miles per hour.”

Both men glanced at it and measured the speed in their minds. Both concluded the tank was doing at least 90 miles per hour. It was moving steadily, and belatedly they realized Porscha couldn’t have learned to drive the tank in the time she had been gone.

“Ah, man.” Duncan rose and jumped out the airy, his wings spreading wide. He landed atop the tank, moved left, right, looked up and down. Searching for a way in. He pounded a fist at the roof, stomped his feet. Took hold of the tube and pulled at it, bending it upward with a loud, irritating metal screech. But the tank kept coming, and Linus leaned forward, eyes narrowing. Muttering under his breath about spoiled, curious brats, he moved the tower aside, along with every structure he assumed would be in its path, opening the way for the tank to move harmlessly where buildings stood just a few moments before.

The tank stopped exactly at the spot the tower had been standing. A round metal flap opened and Porscha’s red head poked out, her eyes squinting at the bright sun. She smiled brightly at Duncan, waved at Linus, then jumped out of the tank and dashed again toward the misty bridge before either man could stop her.

 

 

 

 

Writing prompt contest: Alien Lord – short story

One more short story!
This week’s prompt is:
A bartender and a patron are having a conversation. Unbeknownst to them, someone sitting close by—obscured by shadows—has been eavesdropping. The eavesdropper has trouble sleeping that night based on what he or she heard. What could it have been?

And check out last week’s prompt winner:
https://authorsinspirations.wordpress.com/2017/07/08/writing-prompt-contest-short-story/
which is about: My main character goes back 20 years in time and notices something that makes her not to want to go back, what is it?

ALIEN LORD

Special agent Bradford Bonvera moved into the bar casually, dressed in thready shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt. At twenty eight, he was the best undercover agent uncle Sam had, able to blend into whatever situation was needed.
Today he was a middle class worker, relieved to be free of work early, ready to commemorate the end of the laborious week.
He tapped a hand on the bar, ordered a coke and a burger, paid with the crumpled bills he had used earlier to play airplane with his daughter Julie. Then he took his food and moved to the shadowy cramped table on the back, where the mic he had on the left pocket of his shorts would pick up the conversation from the booth next to it.
As he sat to wait for his suspect and dealer to arrive, Brad dug into the charred burger and soggy fries with the enthusiasm of a man who hadn’t eaten for a few days.
From the corner of his eyes, he watched the man that entered the bar with a swagger and bad attitude, instinctively knowing he wasn’t good news. But he wasn’t his suspect, for this was a tall, skinny man, and according to his informant’s description, the man he wanted was short and bald with a paunchy belly.
He watched as Skinny met the eyes of the bartender, motioned with his chin and the tilt of the head to the far side of the counter, watched as Skinny swaggered toward the end of the bar, as the bartender swiped a stain on the counter and casually moved away from the patrons, where Skinny sat on a stool and waited for him.
Absently, Brad wondered if he’d score two busts tonight, listened as Skinny began talking about aliens, landing points and the gathering of the cult for the welcome.
Chuckling inwardly, Brad dipped his last soggy fry into the watery ketchup and noticed as Anderson, his partner, entered the bar and moved toward the table on the other side of the still empty booth.
Brad watched as Skinny left the bar – after having agreed upon the landing and timing – and a short, bald and paunchy guy swaggered into the bar, scanned it with a thorough sweep, moved into the booth.
Casually Brad ordered a coffee that tasted like horseshit, paid with a few more crumpled bills and sat to enjoy his drink as he listened to the deal taking place right behind him.
———-
The bust was a total success, with the praise of Connor, his superior, for a job well done. The cocaine was impounded, a few pounds worth of drugs lifted from the streets, the dealers apprehended along with a few buyers.
But despite the job well done, Bradford Bonvera couldn’t sleep that night. His mind kept going back to the alien welcoming, the way Skinny had swaggered in and out of the bar, the way his gut had told him he hadn’t been good news.
Brad tossed and turned for an hour, until he finally decided to get up, got dressed, then drove to Belvedere castle, where the alien landing would take place . . . in twenty minutes, he noticed with a glance at his phone’s display.
He would have liked to have called his partner, but at two in the morning, what could he possibly tell him? There’s an alien spaceship landing at two thirty in the morning at central park?
He snorted, got out of his car and moved silently into the shadowy park – bright and peaceful during the day, scary and sketchy during the night, telling himself he was just checking that no alien invasions would be happening tonight so he could go home and enjoy a good night’s sleep. Or whatever was left of it.
But at night, deep in central park, this was a place for thieves, dealers and mafia, not for alien landing.
As he crouched in a darkened spot behind a tall tree near Belvedere castle, Brad had the urge to start kicking himself and his stupidity all the way to Mars and back. He pressed the button that would send an alarm to the bureau and would serve as a tracking device and counted heads. Four men, two of which he recognized as Skinny and the bartender. A suitcase full of money was parked by one of the two remaining men, another two large suitcases were parked beside Skinny, brimming with what Brad had learned to recognize as cocaine tiles. At least fifty pound on each suitcase, he thought with a horror and excitement he only felt in action, when he could almost taste the flavor of success of a well-timed bust. He knew then his informant had given him bad info, or sold the same to the other side – a risk he’d been aware of. The bust earlier had been nothing but bait, he realized now as he reached for the police issue holstered to his hips.
And a shnick sounded by his ear, followed by the muzzle of a gun being pressed to the back of his head.
Heart hammering, Brad stood slowly, hands up in the air.
All four men had turned to watch him as he stepped out of the shadow, his gun confiscated by the man he had yet to see.
He was pushed viciously to his knees once he reached the group, heard the ringing of sirens approaching. But this was New York, and the sound of sirens meant nothing to the drug lords hidden in the darkness and shadow of Belvedere castle, deep in central park.
With the gun still pressed against his head, the four men finished their deal and began closing the suitcases up, concluding their meeting.
An owl nearby hooted a cry and the gun shifted, and Brad ceased the opportunity, throwing himself sideways and kicking behind with both his legs, tripping the fifth man just as the sound of a gun went off. Something burned the side of his head, something warm trickled down.
Brad didn’t pause to check, didn’t give himself time to register the fact that he’d been shot. He dove for the fifth mans gun, took hold of his wrist and twisted even as he rolled around, pulling the man with him. He felt when the bullet hit the man now covering him, heard the sound of the FBI entering the scene. As he pushed the limp body away from him, Brad saw three of the four men being cuffed by his teammates, looked around for the fourth, found Skinny making a run for it. With a shout to let his partner know, Brad pursued, despite feeling his world tilting to the side. He dodged a tree that shot out of the darkness like a ghost, pressed a hand over the wound on the side of his head, knew he’d need stitches, even if the bullet had only skimmed by.
He sited the fifth’s man gun at Skinny, took aim and shot him on the leg. The bullet didn’t take Skinny’s leg from under him as he’d hoped, but Skinny did falter. It was enough for Brad to gain on him, tackle him to the ground and pull his hands to his back.
Later, after Brad gave his report, he went home, the sky already bright with morning, satisfied – despite his aching head – that he had done a good job, that no one out there would be overdosing from this particular batch of drugs.
This time when he closed his eyes, he fell asleep instantly, no longer concerned with alien drug lords.

Writing prompt contest: short story

 

            Second chance mushroom

 

Danny Lee Bonvera dug into the soil, weeded out the stubborn roots. The sun beat down on her head relentlessly, but she wouldn’t – couldn’t go back into the silent house to pick up her gardening hat. She’d been out here for the better part of the day, weeding, snipping, fluffing the soil for the roses and azaleas and wild lilies she’d been planting for over two decades. She’d already tended to her butterfly garden, checked her inbox, and sent Brad, her friend and ex-husband an e-mail. He’d replied right away, which told her he’d either had been waiting for it or had been about to send her one.

They had been doing this back and forth every year on the fourth of July for exactly two decades, to remind each other what they had lost . . . and that they couldn’t forget.

Julie, her baby…

Danny Lee yanked off a stubborn weed, spotted another one, this one strange looking. Like a mushroom, but yet … she yanked it too, her beautiful baby in mind, her need to hold her, even after 20 years just as strong. It had never faded, her love, her grief. There were moments she’d get distracted, think about something else, and even smile.

The sun flashed once, white hot in front of her eyes, and Danny lee leaned back on her haunches, frowning. The sun, that relentless ball of fire, beat down like a hot wave in an inferno, incessant. Danny lee stood abruptly, convinced now to go back inside for her hat, because she didn’t want a heat stroke any more than she wanted company in a hospital room, today of all days.

There was a dizzying sensation, another flash of white hot light . . . and suddenly there were shouts, laughter and a commotion that made her stomach plummet to the pit of her stomach with fear. Had she blacked out? The garden was gone, the sun no longer beating down at her like a hot hammer. She turned slowly, her heart galloping. She was inside a simple living room; scarred wood flooring, brown leather sofas she recognized were sticky in the summer, cold in the winter. A gauzy white drape hung over the medium sized window. Toys littered the floor, a doll she hadn’t seen for 20 years but remembered so well lay by the box-sized TV, where a young Larry Matt followed the progress of the July 4th celebrations with enthusiasm.

Danny Lee looked down at her hands, her young, manicured hands and whirled around when there was a creak by the front door. The doggy flap closed, and with her heart lodged in her throat, Danny Lee ran for the door, yanked it open in time to see her little daughter crawling toward the street. The busy, main street where she knew a drunk teenager would be coming …

With a cry Danny Lee ran, picked her daughter up as she continued going to the other side of the busy city street.

Her daughter, Julie, cried in fear when horns started blasting and people started shouting, but Danny lee just held her daughter tight, eyes closed, hoping to god she wouldn’t wake up in a hospital, struck by heat. This wasn’t a dream, this wasn’t a dream.

The smell of exhaust was too real, the shouts of children too loud, the fireworks too realistic.

She crossed back to her home, walked into her living room in a daze.

When Brad arrived an hour later with the groceries, Danny Lee’s eyes were puffy from crying, and Julie was still in her arms, now asleep.

Danny Lee claimed a headache, begged out of the celebrations, and mother, father and daughter stayed home, ate pasta and watched the celebration on the old TV.

When Danny Lee’s eyes finally closed that night, her daughter tucked safely between her and her husband, she dreamt of a strange mushroom shaped weed and knew to yank it again would return her to the future. She moved to it, stared down at it. Then she picked up the watering can she knew would be there and watered the weed.

Tomorrow she’d tell brad she wanted a new home in the suburbs, away from the city traffic, to watch her daughter grow and play with the neighboring kids. She already knew the house she wanted, the neighbor she had yet to meet, the kids her daughter would grow up with.

With a sigh of contentment, Danny lee turned in her sleep, grasped her daughter to her breasts and dreamt about the happiness and fulfillment of the next two decades.