Tag: Fiction (page 2 of 13)

Flash Fiction: The Torch

Linked from Terribleminds

Terribleminds made me do it.


The news was the same as they walked into the restaurant as it had been all day: rumors of some sort of natural disaster followed by talking heads alternately saying everything was under control and everybody was doomed. Linus shook his head as he removed his wife’s fur coat.

“I wish they would make up their minds. Either it’s under control or it isn’t.”

“Well, if it were under control, someone in charge would say so, if anybody in charge was worth a damn.”

Linus pursed his lips, saying nothing. He didn’t want to get dragged into another political argument with her. They’d been looking forward to this for too long. She looked damn good in her slinky black dress, her hair done up in a coy pile of ringlets on top of her head.

Linus pulled out a chair for her as he looked around the room. The wait staff looked as good as ever, the men in tuxedos and the ladies closely resembling cigarette girls, despite the fact smoking was prohibited. The band was playing something smooth and atmospheric, as if time had left the club untouched since the 20s. He sat across from her, straightening his cufflinks and adjusting his jacket. The club insisted on the black-tie dress code, which was probably part of the appeal for her. He never thought he’d miss humping fifty or more pounds of gear through harsh conditions.

“You’re not here.”

His wife’s words forced a smile as he waved for a waiter.

“Sorry. Guess I’m still not sure about these cufflinks.”

“Please. They look fine. Try to relax, would you? I’d rather not have you wound up for our evening out.”

She loved this look, this period, the way women dressed and acted in books and films. It was an escape for her. She got away from her tiresome reports and the condescension of her superiors and the wandering eyes of coworkers. Linus understood that.

What he never understood and never asked about was how she treated him at times like this. It was like she didn’t stop being a boss. He knew she meant well, telling him to relax and all, but her tone just put him more on edge. He was already edgy after a day of taking engines apart. She picked up on this, smiled, and touched his hand as the waiter approached. She was ordering their appetizers – the most expensive one, of course – when the TV volume picked up.

“This just in, government officials now saying that rumors of quake damage to Progenitus Labs facilities are overstated. Nevertheless, citizens are advised to stay in their homes…”

Linus didn’t hear the rest. He was already on alert. There was commotion at the front; someone was banging on the door. The staff was locking it. The last time Linus felt this way, he’d stopped a Hummer five feet short of an IED.

“Wait here. I need to use the men’s room.”

“At a time like this? The crab bruchetta…”

“It’ll keep.” He stood. “Stay here.”

She furrowed her brows at him. “Where do you think I mean to go?”

“Just do it.”

She crossed her arms and frowned. He headed for the restrooms but walked past them to the back door near the kitchens. It was unlocked and not alarmed. He made his way through the rows of cars to the sedan. He was rummaging through the trunk to find his stowaway case when he saw them.

They shambled rather than walked. Men and women in lab coats, hazmat suits, uniforms and street clothes. They seemed to be skirting around the lights, keeping mostly to the darkness. Their eyes stared, bleeding from the corners. Arms twitched and legs spasmed. They drooled pinkish bubbles and moaned one to another.

They were the ones banging on the front door.

A few peeled off to head towards the parking lot. One of them reached the junction box on the outside. Fingers curved like claws reached for the metal and began to yank. It only took a few tugs to pull the box free of its moorings and wires. That’s when the screaming began inside.

Linus stuffed his pocket with double-ought shells. The Colt went under his belt at the small of his back, and he ditched the suit coat and cuff links. Rolling up his sleeves, he grabbed the boomstick and a couple of road flares. He wished he had sturdier shoes on as he broke into a run towards the darkened back door of the club.

One of them lunged for him. He whirled and let it have a barrel of buckshot. The fire put it on the ground ten feet away with a gaping hole in its chest. They smelled awful. He got inside, slammed the door and popped a flare. The kitchen staff gaped at him.

“Barricade this door. Nobody gets in.”

They scurried to obey. He walked back through the kitchen to the dining hall, getting up on stage near the stunned band. He turned to the crowd. Every face looked up at him, illuminated by the glimmering torch in his hand. His eyes moved from person to person, and then he found her. She was, like every other person there, terrified. All of the bluster and haughtiness that kept corporate dogs at bay fell away by the light of the torch, and in that moment, they were the only two people in the room.

The woman he loved had been strong for him when he’d been at war, and had clung to that strength. Now it was his turn. What he’d done for his country, he’d now do for the woman he loved.

“All right, people, listen up.” Linus made his voice heard over the banging at the front door. “You’re going to pay attention and follow my lead, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll get out of this mess alive.”

Flash Fiction: Scratch

Courtesy eknives.com

This week: 100 words on the subject of revenge.


The knife was his world. With every move against the stone, his memory also sharpened.

Scratch.

Town hall meetings, talks with police, phone calls with councilmen, all aimed at making the streets safe.

Scratch.

Arguments from talking heads and neighbors, saying they were products of their environment, that it’d be safer if he left them alone.

Scratch.

The lack of fear in his eyes as he leaned towards the car, knife in its sheath. “Wait here, son.”

Scratch.

Watching the coroners carry him out in a black bag.

He put down the knife, picked up his father’s rifle.

“They’re going to need more bags.”

Honor & Blood, VI: Viserys

Courtesy HBO, GRRM and Jim Stanes
Courtesy Jim Stanes

Please note: All characters, locations and events are copyright George RR Martin and the events that take place during this game can and will deviate from series canon.

The Story So Far: It is Year 296 since Aegon’s Landing. Word of the lost swords of high Westrosi houses by up-and-coming House Luxon has crossed the Narrow Sea…

He looked up from the meal in front of him to the bearer of the news. Under the stylish, wide-brimmed hat providing shadows for half of his face, there were not many in Pentos who would easily recognize the traveler. Most would be distracted by the flamboyant, multi-colored feather tucked into the hat’s bright violet band. Still, Viserys could not shake a feeling of doubt. Were they being watched? Who else knew of this, of them?

“You saw this thing?”

“With my own eyes.” The voice of the traveler was low, subtle, all but lost in the tavern’s ruckus. “The blades of the Baratheons were laid at the feet of the king himself.”

“The king sitting on my throne.” Scowling, Viserys snatched up a goblet of wine and drained it. “I can’t wait to see the look on his fat face when I split him open.”

“In time, in time.” The traveler spoke calmly, unruffled by the notion of waking the dragon. That didn’t sit well. He should fear the dragon. All men should fear the dragon. “What was interesting to me, however, was not only what this man of the north carried, but what he did not.”

“The blades of my family. Where are they?”

“I suspect they are locked away in Moat Cailin. Little birds tell me the new maester has taken residence in a tower built atop a vault. That would be the most likely place.”

Viserys took a bite of stew, trying to think. The spices in the Pentoshi food distracted him, equal parts curiosity and revulsion interfering with his ability to strategize.

“My ancestors would storm the castle with their armies to take back what is theirs. I have no army. Aemon would have flown over the walls with his dragons. I have no dragons.”

“Astute, my prince.”

“I wasn’t asking for your opinion.” He waved his goblet in the air until it was refilled. “I need inspiration, not sycophancy.”

The eyes of the man in the hat gazed at Viserys. He reminded the Targaryen prince of a spider, hiding in the shadows, scuttling to and fro from King’s Landing to the Free Cities. “Not all wars are won with armies and dragons. Some are won with deception and stealth, before they even begin.”

Viserys considered this. What glory would he win stealing into a castle like a thief? He wasn’t stealing anything, he was reclaiming it. But what price would he pay to get those weapons? There were blades of Valyrian steel among them, perhaps even the sword of Aemon the Dragonknight, or that of his elder brother Rhaegar. He envisioned himself riding towards the Red Keep, a loyal army at his back, the smokey steel in hand and raised high as he returned to the place he truly belonged…

“How do we begin?”

“Well, for one thing, we cannot have you and your sister staying in places where you could be stumbled upon. It is no small miracle that you have remained relatively undiscovered until now. Fortunately for you, I have just the place for you to stay while plans are made. A trusted friend.”

“Inasmuch as I trust anyone.” Viserys finished his wine and laid some coins on the table. He moved to stand, then paused. “Wait. You said a man from the North came to deliver the fat king’s swords. But when you first told me of this, you spoke of two men.”

“Indeed I did.”

“The other was not from the North?”

“No. He is not, but as our time is somewhat short before I am missed, I think that is a tale I shall have to tell another time.”

Viserys narrowed his eyes. “You’re hiding something from me, eunuch.”

“I hide things from all men, my prince. It is how I stay alive.”

“That, too, is no small miracle.”

The traveler only smiled. He stood, gesturing for Viserys to lead the way. As it should be. I’ve been here long enough to know this city like the back of my hand. They wound their way through the streets until they came to the merchant ship owner’s pavilion. The traveler tipped his hat down slightly.

“I will wait here.”

“Is the place we’re going better than this?”

“Slightly larger, and infinitely more hospitable, I suspect.”

Viserys grunted. He walked through the gate and found his host sitting by one of the windows that faced the harbor. Half of the man’s hair, both on his head and in his forked beard, was painted blue, the other half green. A girl from a pillowhouse knelt at his feet and was massaging his ankles while he enjoyed a pipe.

“Ah! My guest returns. Did you have an enjoyable lunch?”

“I did, but I’m afraid I must depart. My sister and I thank you for your hospitality.” He dropped a few coins on the table and walked back towards the guest rooms.

“I find it unfortunate that you still will not consider my offer.” The merchant was standing. “Your sister would be well taken care of and greatly desired. Is that not what all women want?”

Viserys looked over his shoulder, first at the man then at the girl who remained on the floor, barely clothed in the silk gown that fell from her shoulders. Shaking his head, the prince walked into the guest bedroom he shared with his sister. If anyone is going to whore out Daenerys, it’s going to be me, not that old pirate, and not for any pittance of gold, but for my crown.

“Daenerys. It’s time to wake up.”

She murmured as she rolled over on the bed. Viserys crossed to it, reached around her and took hold of her breast, pinching her nipple until her eyes opened.

“We have to leave. Now. If you delay, you will wake the dragon.”

Nodding as she looked at him, Daenerys quickly found her clothes and packed up her few meager belongings. Viserys was already packed. The message had made it clear that they would not linger here long, and so had prepared himself before dawn. They walked out to find the merchant with an old blade in his hand.

“I think I’ll be keeping your sister. She’s worth far more than you are, boy.”

Viserys was armed only with a dagger. But the merchant was in his cups, despite the hour, a fact evident in the empty glass bottles near his chair and the stink on his breath. The young king gestured for his sister to stay behind him as he drew his short blade.

“I’m sure you’d like a virgin to sell to whomever you got that whore on the floor from, but my sister stays with me. And we’re leaving.”

The old pirate scowled, slamming the pommel of his blade on the table, causing bottles to fly. “Wretch! I keep you under my roof for months, feed you and clothe you in keeping with this station you claim, and this is how I’m repaid?”

“No. That gold on the table is how you are repaid. More will come if you let us pass. You will have the thanks of a king.”

“I’d rather have the girl. And your head!”

He roared and charged towards Viserys. The prince ducked to one side, still between his opponent and his sister but out of direct harm. The merchant slammed into the corner where his main room met the hall back to the bedrooms. Viserys smiled.

“Has age slowed your pirate reflexes, old man?”

“I’ll show you how pirates fight!” The merchant reoriented himself with Viserys and charged again. Another sidestep put the man squarely into one of his cabinets. In spite of the deadly nature of the situation, Viserys laughed.

“You should stop now while you still have a house to live in!”

The pirate’s reply was wordless, a restored grip on his sword and yet another charge. This time, when Viserys stepped aside, the man went through the large open doors and across his pavilion. It was easily seen on the streets when he launched into space and landed face down on the inside of his low garden wall. His dogs trotted over to see what had happened, and when he lifted his face, the passers-by laughed, as he now wore one of those dog’s droppings in his beard.

Viserys, sheathing his dagger, took hold of Daenerys’ hand and walked out the door to where the traveler waited. Beside him was an extremely obese Pentoshi gentleman who bowed as they emerged.

“Your Grace. My lady. I’m quite pleased to finally meet you both.”

The pirate staggered towards them, but at the sight of the large man he stopped short.

“Ah. Numeris.” There was something in the fat man’s gaze that reminded Viserys of himself. Of waking the dragon. “I do hope your altercation with this young man will not keep you from seeing my shipment safely to Lys. I’d hate for you to lose your contract.”

“Um. Yes.” The merchant took a step back. “I will see to it personally.” He ran back into his house. Both the fat man and the traveler laughed.

“Spineless as always,” the traveler observed, then tipped his hat to the Targaryen siblings. “I must take my leave, my friends, but let me introduce you to Illyrio Mopatis, Magister of Pentos.”

“And your humble host, Your Grace.” He bowed to Viserys again, and kissed Daenerys’ hand. “My lady.”

“At last, some manners!” Viserys bowed in return. “We are in your debt, Magister. I look forward to seeing your home.”

Get caught up by visiting the Westeros page.

Next: Cadmon

Flash Fiction: The Haunting on Rue de Berri

Plucked from the pages of history indeed.


Courtesy Wikipedia

“Thank you for coming, Mister Franklin.”

“It’s nothing.” The printing mogul and statesman leaned on his walking stick as he looked around the room. Like so many Parisian homes, it was as ostentatious as taste and budget allowed. A black cat looked up at him from the fainting couch as the gentleman who’d summoned him settled in an armchair near the window. It was nearly dusk, and soon the sun would disappear behind the horizon entirely.

“I am simply hoping to sleep well tonight.” The gentleman wrung his hands as he watched Franklin move around the sitting room. “The noises and broken glassware in the middle of the night are not helping my work ethic and mental well-being.”

Franklin nodded, narrowing his eyes. He set his satchel down on the side table and opened the clasp, extending his senses. “The request was somewhat unorthodox. Normally, members of the church undertake tasks such as this.” There was definitely dissonance in the house, a cold feeling that lingered at the edges of his perception. He tipped his spectacles down and looked around the room without their interference.

“I had heard you were an inventor and a man of letters, but not…”

“A wizard?” Franklin had to smile. “That’s the proper term. But I will thank you not to spread the fact around. His Majesty has enough headaches from our precocious colonies without witchcraft and wizardry becoming involved.” He withdrew a small jar of salt from his satchel, along with a small clay pot. “Now, Monsieur LeBeouf, I must ask you to remain still.”

LeBeouf nodded, and Franklin walked over to the man’s easychair. He handed his host the pot, unstoppered the jar and began sprinkling salt in a wide circle around the chair.

“Should I be doing anything with this?”

“Just hold on to it, for now.” Franklin was careful to make sure the circle was even in its construction. He did not want it to break prematurely. Once it was complete, he replaced the stopper in the jar and knelt by the chair. He traded the jar for the pot, removed the pot’s lid and spread a bit of its cool, creamy contents under his eyes, then under LeBeouf’s.

“What is this?”

“An ungent based on a composition I discovered thanks to travelers from Mexico and Jamaica. Now, please remain quiet.” Still kneeling, he touched the inner edge of the circle with his fingers, having laid the jar aside. He uttered a soft incantation, and immediately the timbre of the room changed. What had been pre-dusk light, coloring the cream walls and soft carpets with pink hues, darkened to deep, angry reds. The cat hissed and bolted from its spot to leave the room. LaBeouf shuddered, nearly dropping the jar of salt, as Franklin rose to look to the door the cat had not run through.

“You can come out. I mean you no harm.”

Slowly, a flutter of white cloth emerged from around the corner. The figure took silent, shuffling steps, one at at time. Her nightgown seemed to be in tatters, her flesh more pale than the surface of a pearl. She had been beautiful before her eyes had sunken and her lips turned purple. Dark bruises could be seen all over her slender neck. She glared at LaBeouf for a long moment when he came into her vision.

“Why do you linger, spirit?”

She looked at Franklin, and when the men heard her voice, it wasn’t from her mouth. It filled the room, an insistent and omnipresent whisper.

“Ask my husband.”

Franklin glanced at LaBeouf, who has apparently shrunk into his armchair. The ghost bared her teeth at him, but Franklin stepped between them.

“Tell me what happened, child.”

The ghost seemed to compose herself.

“I could not give him children. The doctors said I’d never bear fruit. He was so angry. He waited until we were home and I was exhausted, ready for bed. Then he…”

The voice felt silent. Her hands moved to her neck. Her eyes widened in fear. Franklin nodded slowly.

“I understand. And I will make this right. You will be at peace.”

The ghost’s hands fell to her side, and then she picked up the skirts of her ruined nightgown and curtsied to Fraklin. He bowed, then broke the circle. Immediately, she was gone from their sight and the color of the fading day returned to normal. LaBeouf shot to his feet.

“She lies! It’s slander!”

“She is not capable of lying, Monsieur. Spirits of the departed only lie to themselves from time to time. Spirits of other worlds, now, there you have some skilled liars.”

He began cleaning up the circle with a small brush and pan from his satchel. LaBeouf struggled to find words.

“What… what happens now?”

“Now? Now, you go to the magistrate and confess to your crime. You show him where you disposed of your poor wife’s body and you throw yourself on the mercy of the court.”

“That’s preposterous! I’ll be ruined!”

“The alternative is that you live with this secret… and your wife’s ghost… forever.”

FOREVER wafted through the room, a whisper from the spirit that was breathy sigh and deadly premonition. LaBeouf turned as pale as his wife had appeared. Without another word, he grabbed his hat and headed out the door.

Franklin sighed, shaking his head. It was times like this he missed America. He turned to find the black cat looking at him.

“I’m sorry, dear. Would you like a new home? Fresh cream every day and plenty of bookshelves on which to sit?”

“Meow,” the cat replied.

Honor & Blood, V: The Green Boy

Courtesy Facebook

Please note: All characters, locations and events are copyright George RR Martin and the events that take place during this game can and will deviate from series canon.

The Story So Far: It is Year 296 since Aegon’s Landing. Jon Snow has left Winterfell for Moat Cailin, home of House Luxon. His brothers Robb and Bran have gone with him to wish him well. Lord Goddard invites the sons of his liege lord to stay for a feast and rest before returning home, and while Robb spars with his half-brother one last time, Bran explores the unfamiliar castle and its many towers…

He adored the feeling of the wind cutting through him.

Summer kept pace on the ground, watchful, long ears alert. The direwolf pup could not climb after him, though. The craggy masonry and hidden handholds were Bran’s province alone. Here, in a place he’d never seen, he still navigated walls and towers with speed and precision. In his mind he saw himself assaulting an enemy stronghold, a dagger clenched in his teeth, men at arms struggling to keep up as they moved to overwhelm the guards at the gate, or carry off a damsel in distress.

One tower was different from the others. It was not the tallest one of Moat Cailin’s many, but it was one of the few that seemed unmanned. A gregarious garron was the only creature keeping watch at its base, tied to a post and pawing at the ground. Summer gave it a sniff in introduction as Bran ascended the tower. He immediately caught a scent from above: freshly brewed tea, strong and exotic. Curiosity overwhelmed him as he moved, hand over hand, up the side of the tower. At last he came to the window that was the source of the scent.

A small spiral staircase rose through the middle of the room. Several stout bookshelves were spaced around the room, scrolls and tomes stuffed into their spaces. Tapestries hung from the higher portions of the wall and rugs lay on the floor. A small firepit was near the window, with a kettle hanging over it. Across the way from Bran was a table featuring odd figurines and two men facing one another as they sat in thought.

One was Lord Goddard Luxon. He reminded Bran of his lord father, a man of war tempered with patience and wisdom. The other was an older man, his head curiously devoid of hair, dressed in the robes of a maester. The stranger’s eyes flicked towards Bran, then back to the table.

“A moment while I tend to the tea.” He moved one of the figurines and rose. He picked up a staff that had been leaning against a nearby shelf before hobbling over to the fire pit, slowly, his eyes on Bran. The boy didn’t move. Carefully, the maester removed the pot from the firepit’s rail, set it on a side table, and covered the firepit with a broad metal lid.

“You best come inside, my lad. ‘Twould be a shame to see you fall from this height.”

Nodding, Bran climbed into the room. The maester was pouring tea as Goddard regarded him.

“As you are not one of Lord Goddard’s children, I deduce you’re one of our honored guests.”

“That would be Bran Stark.” Goddard hadn’t moved from the table, his gaze severe on the boy. “And he should know wandering a yard, any yard that is not his own, is inherently dangerous.”

“I’m sorry.” Bran found his voice but did not meet the lord’s eyes. “I like to climb.”

“Well, since you worked so hard in climbing up here, would you mind holding onto this tray for our lord?” The maester was holding a small tray with two steaming cups, and Bran took it. Smiling, the maester moved back to the table with the boy in tow. Goddard’s look had softened for a moment before turning back to the figurines.

“What is this?”

“It is called cyvasse, young master, a game of strategy and cunning. It is a means of keeping the mind sharp and taking the measure of another without the need for swords.”

“And it’s damned annoying at times.” Goddard’s voice was laced with mirth, however, and he rubbed his chin as he regarded the board before him. After a few quiet moments, during which the maester sampled his tea, the lord moved his trebuchet.

“Why is it annoying?”

“A skilled opponent knows not to move all of his powerful pieces to the front.” Goddard took a sip of tea, then nodded to the maester with a raise of the cup. “I jest; facing a skilled opponent is only annoying in that more effort must be exerted in overcoming them. My son could stand to learn that, as well as how to play the game better.”

The maester smiled, then turned his attention to the board. Bran leaned closer and looked at the different tiles and pieces.

“Why not simply fly your dragons over everything?”

“Two reasons.” The maester moved one of his spearmen to block his opponent’s trebuchet. “One, this is a game of Old Valyria, and the object is to capture the king, which is stronger than a dragon. Two, moving your dragons aggressively can sometimes be effective, but canny players can deal with and extinguish early threats and leave their opponents at a disadvantage for the duration of the game. Given the mobility of the dragons, your opponent could see it coming, and prepare a counter-move.”

Bran knelt and leaned his elbows on the table, his chin in his hands.

“Not every battle is won with strength alone, Bran.” Goddard moved his heavy horse. “More often than not, you must use your eyes and your mind as much as your sword or fist to win the day.”

Bran nodded, watching as the game unfolded. Eventually, the maester was forced to move his king out of his fortress and after a merry chase, Goddard pinned it in the back corner with his horse and spy. The maester, unflustered, stood and bowed to his lord.

“A well-played match, my lord. The board is yours.”

Goddard stood and offered the maester his hand. “A good game and good tea. We must do this again.”

As they shook, noise came from below. The bulky form of Samsun Cray came up the spiral, followed by the quick and quiet Spectre. Bran smiled and walked over to the shadow cat, who rammed Bran’s shoulder with her head to ensure she had the boy’s full attention.

“Some of the locals have arrived, my lord, wishing to speak with you about their crops and trade. I also was told to find Bran to inform him Robb is ready to leave.”

Bran looked up from petting Spectre. “I want to say good-bye to Jon.”

“So you will.” Goddard laid his teacup down on the side table and made for the stairs, with Samsun in tow. Spectre moved after her master, but Bran hesitated, looking back at the maester as he put the cyvasse pieces in a box on a shelf near the table.

“Did you go bald when you became a maester?”

The older man smiled. “In a way. I shave every morning. It’s a ritual, a reminder of the commitment I’ve chosen to make to the realm.”

“What about your leg? Doesn’t that remind you?”

“My leg reminds me that I am more than the circumstances that left me with only one of flesh and blood.” The maester leaned on his staff as he regarded the boy. “Men are more than they seem, young master. More than their handicaps, more than their prowess, more than their smiles. Do not be afraid to look deeper into their hearts, as well as your own.”

Bran nodded as Goddard called his name. He hurried down the stairs. Summer bounded after him as they searched for Jon. He wasn’t leaving until he said good-bye.

Get caught up by visiting the Westeros page.

Next: Viserys

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