March FADness: 03/09/2008: Shakespeare FanFiction; “Hamlet and Horatio” (677 Words)

Hamlet and Horatio

“Ratso! What are you doing back from Wittenberg? Won’t your father flip his wig if you’re not at your studies?”

Horatio frowned. “You’re one to talk. You are talking! Who are you talking to, anyway?”

“Myself,” Hamlet mumbled.

“Me,” the Ghost drawled from beneath them.

Horatio jumped back, a chill scattering up his back. “What the hell?”

“Never mind that. How are things at school?”

Horatio glared at him. “They’d be a lot better if you were there to do your papers. Professor Kinton, particularly, is going to have your head you don’t finish that Natural Philosophy paper you promised him!”

Hamlet looked away, something sliding through his eyes that Horatio couldn’t read. “I just couldn’t…” He trailed off.

Horatio felt guilt flood him. “Hambone, I’m sorry. I never meant–”

“Have you seen Ophelia?” Hamlet interrupted.

Horatio stared at him. “No. I haven’t been up to the castle yet. I heard Polonius is in fine fettle, though.”

“From whom?” Hamlet demanded, suddenly intense.

Horatio’s eyed narrowed. “I knew it. What are you up to?”

Hamlet looked, if anything, more furtive. “You must promise me you will say nothing. Promise. Swear it… swear it on my sword.”

“Your sword!” Horatio echoed, shocked.

“His sword,” the Ghost quavered.

“Hamlet, what –”

“You must,” Hamlet interrupted. “You will say nothing!”

“All right, all right! Calm down! I’ll swear.”

“By his sword,” the Ghost commanded.

“Hamlet, what is that?” Horatio demanded. He looked around and spotted the Ghost. He stumbled back with a cry, dropping his backpack. The zipper sprang apart and spilled several heavy, leather-bound textbooks into the grass.

“My father,” Hamlet answered simply. He looked at the Ghost, pain and a strange resolve in his eyes that Horatio had never seen.

“This has got to be the strangest thing I’ve ever seen!” Horatio burst out. “You, a student of Natural Philosophy. I heard they said you were mad, and I half believed it. But this –” He waved at the ghost with an agitated hand.

“Then give it welcome, Horatio, as a true Philosopher. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

“Since when have I been a know-it-all?” Horatio protested, still staring wide-eyed at the Ghost. “Hamlet, is that your father?” he asked plaintively.

“Yes,” Hamlet said again.

Horatio rubbed his eyes furiously for a moment as the ghost began to fade. “What is going on? I receive a letter that the King is dead, his son the Prince is mad, and Polonius is traipsing around the castle while his daughter goes mad from grief. You love Ophelia, dammit! What are you doing?”

Hamlet regarded him sadly. “I would explain, but I need time, Horatio. Time that I do not have. Time to catch a murderer.”



“But who –”

“Have you heard who is to wed my mother?” Hamlet demanded, intense again.

Horatio sighed, feeling like it came from his toes. “Yes. I’m sorry. But that’s surely not cause for murder! Such things aren’t done in these times!”

Hamlet shook his head, disgusted. “Always you seek the best in man.”

“And always you seek the worst!” Horatio snapped, offended. “See reason, man! You cannot just accuse the man who will be King of Denmark of usurping his brother’s throne by murder!”

Hamlet looked away, toward where the ghost had been just moments before. Horatio watched that unfamiliar resolve surfacing again. “Man will act as he has always done, and woman also. If it is truth you seek, my friend, then it is truth you shall have.” He stared into the distance for a few moments more and then turned to Horatio as though nothing had happened. “Come. Fix your bag. I’ll walk you up to the castle. You must be tired from your journey.”

Horatio blinked and allowed the Prince to chivy him onto the road toward the castle. He would speak no more of what they had discussed, but Horatio could not shake the feeling that something was rotten in the heart of Denmark.

March FADness: Story 03/08/2008: Drabble; “Poker” (100 Words)


“Full house.”



“I’m out. My wife’s gonna kill me as it is.”

“Who’s in?”


“Yeah, me too.”


“You’re grinning. What’s got you so happy?”

“He’s winning, isn’t he?”

“Yeah. Good point.”


“What’s your game?”

“Five card stud.”

“Yeah. I’m the stud.”

“Your wife tell you that?”

“No. Yours did.”


“This goddamn game is gonna get me in the shit with my wife for sure.”

“That’s just cuz you keep losing!”

“Laugh it up. I don’t see you win either. Just the new guy.”

“Hey, what did you say your name was again?”

“Mr. Faust.”

March FADness: Story 03/07/2008: Creature Feature; “Letters to a Young Dragon” (811 Words)

Letters to a Young Dragon

My dearest Son,

The time of your fiftieth birthday fast approaches, and it is nearly time for you to go forth, find a mate, and spawn. As my father did for me, and his father for him, and so on back to the First Egg, it is time for me to impart to you the wisdom of our generations upon this fertile earth.

You are of the mightiest race to ever live. The age of dinosaurs has past and they felt the sting of extinction, but we the mightiest will live forever. As such, you have a grave responsibility to safeguard our race from the ravages of Man, that foul little two-legged infestation so recently sprung down from the trees. Oh! by the First Egg how I wish they had never learned the gift of speech! I was there when they first walked upon the valleys and hills of my youth. I was there when they established villages – Feh! – and began to trade with one another. What stench! What foul noise! What ignorance of the ways of our Mother Earth!

It is first of Man that I must warn you, my Son. For as all dragons know, Man has spread like a foul disease the breadth of this continent and will entrench himself and his horrid offspring. If we are to prosper, we must be ever watchful and ensure that our lands are not encroached upon. Why, just last month I caught a party of Man hunting our deer! Can you imagine? The impertinence! Next thing you know, they’ll be building towns like the Tyrannosaurs and trying to float upon the Oceans of Mother Earth, the better to spread their plague.

But I digress.

Now, my Son, it is up to you to contain their number. Wiser heads than ours have decreed that Man must not be fully cleansed from this Earth, for by the First Egg they are children of the Sun just as we. But contain their numbers we may, in fact, we must! It is to that specific purpose that I lay claw to rock this morning.

First, when marauding a village, make sure you come at it from downwind. Man has allied himself with the Sons of the Wolf and, though bastardized beyond all recognition, Dog has a deep mistrust of Dragonkind. While we are allied long and fruitfully with Wolf, Dog – that eater of Carrion – has chosen to ally with Man. Very well. Their noses, though dulled by the midden-heaps of generations, are nevertheless alert to our presence. Downwind, my Son, you must fly from downwind.

Second, it is best to attack in the Dawn, just before the mighty Sun has begun His daily journey cross the Sky. Fly low and fast, and keep alert for their bowman. But the Mother Earth has given Dragonkind a gift: for Man has discovered hops, and barley, and yeast. They have fermented these – foul brew! – into something he calls “beer.” (Don’t drink it; it tastes like week-dead carrion!) It imparts to Man a bellicosity followed by the urge to sing at the top of his lungs – off key, I might add; perhaps you’ve heard the bellowing? After the singing comes the procreation (don’t they look stupid when they do that? No majesty on the wing, no dancing, no artistry at all!). After the procreation comes the sleep. Beer has lent to Man a sleep deeper than the dead, my Son, and this is why Dawn is the best time. They awake, if they awake at all, bleery-eyed and muzzy.

Third, you must destroy the Main House first. This is where their leaders and best ‘warriors’ – hah! – live (if you can call it living – the stench alone will turn your scales!). Burn from the base of the building to the roof, from the front along the prevailing side, then circle once and do the same on the other side. As the rest of the village rouses, take the barns next – they will become agitated for the loss of their livestock and run back and forth, trying to decide whether to save them or fight you. This confusion is exactly correct.

Fourth, eat your fill, my Son, for you have truly earned it. Beware the missiles from their small arms, but by this time you will have landed in the center of the village and have naught to fear. Their weapons cannot penetrate your hide – only your belly is at risk, which is why you take their Main House first.

Best and bright fortunes to you, my Son, as you go forth into the World to make your way. I know that with practice, you can become the Scourge of Man and the Promise of the Next Generation of Dragonkind. Perhaps, in the fullness of time, even Dragonking one day!

All my love,

Your Father, Smaug

March FADness: Story 03/06/2008: Twist

Anne sighed. Her charge, whom she nicknamed “Mouse,” ran on thick, short little legs around the yard, stumbling over the short hillocks of grass. Her stubby fingers extended in front of her like feelers, alert for danger.

“Look…” Anne trailed off, wincing, as the little girl fetched up against a lawn chair, barking her knees painfully on the edge of it. The child sat down on her bottom hard, tears erupting.

“Poor little tyke,” Anne murmured, walking over. She touched the girl’s shoulder gently and held her as the little body shook with angry sobs. “You really are a poor little thing, aren’t you, Mouse?”

At the vibrations of her voice, the little girl put her hand up and banged into Anne’s mouth. Anne obliged by opening and closing her mouth, making “Ah” sounds. The little hands batted her like heavy butterflies and then yanked her bottom lip. Anne closed her teeth on one digit, hard enough to make her point, and the girl pulled back, startled.

Anne stood up, patted her on the back, and off she went again. Anne sighed. It was getting close to lunch time.

She moved over to the shaded area near the French doors and took the cover off the two plates waiting there. Identical sandwiches and sliced apple waited, each with their own napkins. There was, by Anne’s orders, no flatware. Anne set the plates out on the small table and turned back to the lawn.

“There you are, little tyke,” Anne muttered, catching her in mid-dash across the center of the lawn. She squirmed and Anne tapped her bottom. “None of that, miss. It’s lunch time.”

She set Mouse down in her chair and smoothed the napkin in her lap. They had a brief wrestling match over it when Mouse wanted to put it in her mouth, but Anne was stubborn and the napkin stayed in the lap. She guided the little girl’s hands to the sandwich and was rewarded by a little fist making mush of the slices of bread.

“No, Mouse!” Anne snapped, slapping her hand sharply. The little girl froze, waiting. Anne calmly turned her hand over and formed the letters like she always did. “B – R – E – A – D,” she spelled slowly.

Mouse pulled her hand away and stuffed nearly four bites’ worth into her mouth at once. She immediately fell to coughing and Anne had to help her clean herself up. She tried the spelling game again, B – R – E – A – D, to no avail.

After Anne was able to eat half her own sandwich and Mouse ate all of her own, the little girl jumped to her feet and ran off toward the garden. “Mouse!” Anne admonished, scrambling after her.

She was too late. With a crash that Anne felt in her bones, the rake went flying and the little girl tipped over the water bucket, running straight into the faucet. More surprised than anything else, she opened her mouth in a wordless yell of fury.

Anne knelt in the mud and water, and spelled, “W – A – T – E – R.” Mouse pulled away angrily and slapped her arm, aiming, Anne knew, for her face. Anne grabbed her hand again, annoyed. “W – A – T – E – R,” the letters went.

Mouse froze. Her stubby fingers clenched and then her palm flattenened commandingly. Anne felt a chill. She spelled the letters again. W – A – T… Mouse grabbed at her hand wildly and spelled, haltingly, W – A – T – R. Anne shook her head, intent, and spelled W – A – T – E – R. She was so focused she didn’t hear her employer until he stood between Anne and the sun, casting a long shadow on the both of them as they knelt in the soupy muck.

“Miss Sullivan, what are you doing?” he demanded angrily.

“I think it’s working!” she cried, looking up at him with a wild exhultation surging through her. Mouse, by some movement in the air or the sudden coolness on her face from the shade, reached out and planted a mud-spattered hand on her father’s trouser leg.

Anne, rather than admonish her, grabbed her hand and spelled out, “F – A – T – H – E – R.”

Mouse grabbed Anne’s hand and spelled it back, getting it right on the first try.

“Mr. Keller! It’s working! Helen is learning!” Anne crowed, as Mrs. Keller, listening from under the awning burst into tears. “She’s spelled ‘Father!’”

(Author’s Note: This is my first try at historical fiction. It is based on research done on works by Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan.)

March FADness: Story 03/05/2008: Revenge; Untitled (997 Words)

After ascending one level, Fenton realized that Gray was right behind him. He whirled in sudden fury and slammed the taller man against the wall. “Gods damn you, Mage! Had you allowed me to speak to her in peace, she would have talked to me!”

“Captain, please. I had nothing to do with it!” Gray protested. “I didn’t know she was here until just before I saw you. I would never betray you to Katzn!”

“He’s your Abbot; what fool do you think I am?” Fenton growled.

“Fenton. Please. I believe you! I saw her with my own eyes, for the love of the Child. Let me help you.”

Fenton stared at him and then stepped back. He turned and started up the stairs again, not stopping until he’d reached his own quarters. He stood aside to allow Gray to enter and shut the door on a startled page, cutting the boy off midsentence.

“Fenton!” Gray protested mildly. “What is it?”

Fenton didn’t answer and strode to the window overlooking the stables and practice yard. He stared down intently, ignoring the mage behind him. Consumed by curiosity, Gray finally walked over and peered outside.

“What are we looking for?”

Fenton almost laughed. The Mage, for all of his subtlety, made an abysmal spy. “The escapee.”

Gray frowned, eyes raking the grounds and finding no one. “What are you talking about?”

Fenton saw Melunin’s nose and then head emerge from the stable, followed by the rest of him. “She’s got excellent taste in horse flesh,” he grumbled, annoyed.

“Who? Fenton, what – ”

Fenton grabbed his arm, interrupting the tirade, and pointed. “There. The rider.”

“Lords of Chaos…” Gray breathed. “Is that Kilasha?”

“Yes,” Fenton growled. “And she has my horse.”

Fenton strode over to his clothes press and rummaged. He laid out four sets of undergarments and set about collecting the rest of his supplies. Gray watched him in silence for a few moments.

“I’m coming with you,” the Mage announced.

Fenton stilled, looking over at the other man. “You’re not serious.”

“Of course I am!” he shot back indignantly.

Fenton resumed packing, a smirk twisting his lips. “Don’t be childish. You haven’t been out of the Castle in months. This is not some lark through the countryside. We’ll be in the saddle for some days, I think.”

Gray thrust out his chin stubbornly. “I wish to accompany you.”

Fenton threw his shaving kit on the bed and strode to the door, yanking it open on the startled page. “Pack a bag for Mage Gray, Bolyn. Standard kit, four days. No, make that a week. Tell Stable Master Kint that I’ll need a mount for him, and saddle Melonioc. Have it ready in thirty minutes, not a second longer.”

“Yes, Captain,” Bolyn answered, his voice deepened into manhood already.

Fenton looked at Gray. “Fine. You’ll travel as one of my men, no special accommodation. Can you do that?”

Gray nodded, looking startled at being taken at his word. He turned back to the window. “She’s gone already.”

Fenton shrugged. “I’ll find her. She’s riding my stallion; she can’t hide that from me.”

The two men slipped downstairs to the stable twenty minutes later, stopping by the kitchens on the way. Cook was berating two young pages for misplacing a cheese, some apples, and a loaf of bread. Fenton wanted to laugh. He grabbed his own provisions, showed Gray how to pack himself a travel pouch, and strode through to meet Stable Master Kint.

“Captain. Your stallion’s gone a-missing, it appears.”

“Yes, Master Kint. I’m aware. I go to fetch him now, in fact.”

Kint nodded, satisfied. “Good. Mage,” he greeted.

Gray blinked, taken aback at such a lackluster greeting. Fenton grinned at him and strode forward.

A tall gray mare stood calmly waiting. Fenton was pleased. Shellycka was sweet-tempered and fast, gentle for less-experienced riders. Gray would be in good hands. Fenton buckled his bags to the back of his own saddle and greeted Melonioc with some sugar he’d had in his pocket. When he saw Gray watching curiously, he handed some of the brown stuff over and watched as the Mage fed it to Shellycka without getting his fingers nibbled.

Once outside of the Castle, Fenton pulled into the lead. “We’ll meet up with my Lieutenant, about a day’s ride out from here. Then we’ll go the rest of the way with a small guard.”

“Guard?” Gray asked. “You expect danger?”

“Always, but particularly now. Kilasha won’t harm us, but I expect Moarven will want revenge.”

“Revenge!” Gray clucked to Shellycka, who obligingly pulled up next to Fenton. “Why? We’ve done nothing to them!”

Fenton stared at him, wondering how such an intelligent man could be so appallingly blind. “We’ve kidnapped two of the Seers, Gray. If for no other reason than that, she’ll want revenge. But one is dead. By our hand or not, we’ve kept the body.”

“She’ll want the body?” Gray asked blankly.

Fenton wondered suddenly if anything he ever said made sense to the tall mage. “Wouldn’t you? For last rights?”

Gray looked thoughtful at that. Fenton, suddenly exhausted, pulled ahead again and set his face toward his distant camp, wishing he were there already.

He hoped that Moarven would hear reason. But more than that, he hoped that Kilasha was safe. He saw her face in his mind’s eye; delicate but strong bones and those blue, blue eyes. He sighed. To get back to the Seers’ residence meant crossing four or five days’ worth of wild, untamed lands. A woman, injured and alone, would be easy prey in that time. He glanced back at the mage trailing behind him and wished devoutly he understood what they were fighting, that he could get the Abbot to see what it was that was really going on.

And that Moarven wouldn’t take revenge on Fenton or, worse, Gray. He swallowed. One thing at a time. First he had to get to camp, then find Kilasha.

March FADness: Story 03/04/2008: Journey; Untitled (637 Words)

Kilasha watched Fenton’s retreating back grimly. The leather vest he wore over his clothing when inside was richly tooled, designs tracing the entire surface. Her fingers itched to explore it. She closed her eyes, more to refocus herself than anything else. When she looked back, the Abbot was seated where Fenton had been.

She wondered suddenly if he had any food in those robes of his.

“You are lucky we found you when we did,” Abbot Katzn announced, startling her a little.

She managed to keep the frown off her face, but stared at him anyway. He raised an eyebrow in response to her direct eye contact, and she looked at her lap. “Yes, sir,” she said demurely.

“Your companion is dead, sadly,” the Abbot continued. “We’re still searching for your other accomplice.”

She wanted to laugh. Moarven would love that.

“Was it a Mage from this Order?” he asked then.

She blinked. He thought it was a Mage? She felt herself flush with rage but answered him calmly enough. “I don’t know, sir.”

The Abbot stood. “Get some rest, my dear. Food will be here shortly. I don’t know what those soldiers were thinking, putting you here. Your Family has been alerted to your presence here and will be here shortly to retrieve you.”

She felt a stab of worry. Her family? What a disaster that would be. The Abbot and his entourage trouped out. She slipped to the door, less injured than she’d made out even to Fenton. The two guards on either side of her door were oblivious to her and she pointed a finger at each of them.

“Sleep,” she commanded.

They obligingly slid down the wall like a matched pair. She felt the door and grimaced; unlocked. They truly didn’t think she was any threat. Fenton, at least, saw her for what she was. That one was dangerous. The rest were just irritating at best.

It took her nearly a half hour of searching the rabbit-warren of a Castle before she found the passage to the stables. She took a side trip to Cook’s domain and liberated another of those compelling cheeses that Fenton had been eating, along with a loaf of bread and two apples. She dashed through the low stone passageway to the back door of the stables and slipped through.

A moment’s work yielded her a strong runner, brown with black mane and tail. The young male sniffed at her and seemed excited to be going outside of the walls with her. She saddled him efficiently and vaulted up, her silks filthy past caring. What would one more scent hurt? So what if she smelled like a horse.

They broke into a gallop once under the shelter of the trees. She wanted to get as far away from the castle as possible before her ‘family’ showed up. She hadn’t seen nor heard from her father or brother since her mother had died. That suited the men just fine. They were uncomfortable with a Seer for a daughter, felt it was a stigma. The Council was all the family she needed now.

She set her face toward the mountains and steered her enthusiastic mount through the trees. The gathering darkness seeped out from between the trees, cloaking her passage. She urged her mount into a trot, then a canter. A run through the evening wouldn’t hurt him, and would put her closer to home.

A brief pang speared her at the thought of Setira, lying cold on some stone bed behind her. There was nothing Kilasha could do for her at this point, but she wished she’d been able to carry her body home with her.

The sun set, lighting the sky with brilliant color. An owl, hunting early, hooted somewhere above her in the trees as she rode on.

March FADness: Story 03/03/2008: Food; Untitled (934 Words)

Captain Fenton Meriwether moved down the stairs to the cells beneath the castle, his steel shod boots echoing back against the stone. After a moment, he heard a second set of footfalls and slowed, curious.

A flash of midnight blue wool and an immense ruby announced his companion before Gray finished rounding the corner.

“You think I need a chaperone?” Fenton demanded testily.

Gray glared at him. “Why didn’t you tell me you’d captured one of them?”

Fenton stared at him, not feeling particularly friendly. “Two, actually,” he admitted.


“The second one did not survive.”

“What?” The color faded from the mage’s face.

“Not anything we did. What do you take me for?” Fenton snapped. “She was killed in the conflict.”

“What conflict?”

“Harpies and Council, actually,” Fenton answered shortly and started walking down the stairs again.

“Fenton…” Gray groaned, sounding exasperated.

Fenton whirled at the mage and nearly pinned him to the wall they were standing so close to one another. “It’s Kilasha,” he grated.

Gray blinked. “Fenton…” He seemed less intense suddenly. “Fenton, I’m sorry.”

Fenton wanted to shout, or rage at him, but instead turned and started walking again. After a moment, the mage followed, a silent shadow at his back.

The stairs opened onto a low stone room. Four iron-banded doors spaced evenly around the circular wall stood open; the fifth was closed. A torch flickered inside, casting odd shadows through its iron cage – protection for the guards, in case the prisoners decided to try to use it as an impromptu weapon. They’d never had anyone try.

The cell’s occupant lay on her side on the pallet, face pale and drawn. Her waist-length brown hair hung lank, bits of twigs peppering the wrist-thick braid. Her silks, once bright and comely, were spattered with mud and worse. The two guards straightened when he walked in and one bent to unlock the cell door.

“Get two chairs,” he ordered briefly.

“Yes, Captain,” the taller one said and all but ran to do as he was bid.

Kilasha stirred and her eyes cracked open, a line of bright blue. Fenton watch awareness return slowly as she blinked at him. By the time the guard had returned with the chairs for him and the mage, she was actually looking at him.

“Where am I?” she asked, her voice weak.

“You’re safe, Kilasha,” Fenton told her gently, driven in spite of himself to some measure of kindness.

“Fenton,” she murmured. “I should have known.”

Gray shifted in his seat but said nothing. Kilasha struggled back against the wall and moved by painful inches into a sitting position, grimacing at the state of her clothing. She fingered her braid but gave up with what Fenton knew was frustration.

“Your companion is dead,” Fenton said then.

Looking right at her, he saw the flash of pain in her eyes, the slight tightening of her lips. She said nothing in response, just watched him.

He retrieved a knife from his belt and she watched his every movement with it, as he reached into a belt pouch and pulled out a dry sausage. He carved a small slice and offered it laconically to Gray, who took it with a slightly perplexed expression. Kilasha watched as Fenton carved another slice and put it in his mouth.

“Who was she?” Fenton asked.

“Setira,” Kilasha answered promptly.

“Who used the magics on that mountain?” Gray asked suddenly.

Fenton winced. Kilasha transferred her blue, blue eyes to the mage and stared, hostility making her face harsher. “What magics do you speak of, Mage?” She said the title like it tasted bad.

Fenton raised a hand before Gray could dig himself in further, trying to interrogate a Seer. “It was clear that someone did. The cottage was obliterated.”

Something like guilt slid through her eyes and was gone. Fenton was surprised; he hadn’t known she was capable of slaughter on that scale. He digested that silently, slicing another bite of sausage. He reached into his pouch and, crossing one leg to make a sort of table, set out a small yellow cheese and one of Cook’s heavy black loaves. He caught the sudden intensity in Kilasha’s eyes, gone when she blinked. But he’d seen it.

“The Order says that such Power is forbidden,” Fenton went on in the same bored tone. “They don’t admit that anyone outside the Order is even capable of it, much less a woman.”

He was rewarded by a sudden flash of hatred in her eyes, then she looked down at her lap. A slight flush colored her cheeks.

“I’ve told them they’re mistaken, but no one believes a humble Captain,” Fenton noted softly.

Her mouth quirked up in appreciation of his humor and she peeked at the cheese. Obligingly, he shaved a small bite and put it in his mouth, her eyes watching him intently.

Fenton was sure she would have spoken, but a sudden commotion on the stairway disturbed them.

“Why wasn’t I told of this?” the Abbot’s voice rang out. A welter of voices responded to that as several blue-robed men crowded around the blinding white robe of Abbot Katzn.

Fenton scrambled out of his chair to stand at attention, followed a moment later by Gray.

“Captain! I see you’ve captured one alive! Excellent work!” the Abbot boomed. “You may go, I’ll take it from here.”

Fenton knew better than to argue. He ducked his head in the ritual bow and walked out of the room, wishing he could have allowed the cheese at least to fall into Kilasha’s hands. He strode up the stairs, seething.

March FADness: Story 03/02/2008: Weather; Untitled (342 Words)

Kilasha caught a thermal and rose nearly a hundred feet before she could even blink. A crosswind buffeted her into a sudden calm pocket. The rain pelted her while she floated, her silks stirring a little in the air, and she rested. With deft fingers, she rebraided her hair, the long brown strands appearing glossy black in the driving rain.

“Kilasha! The tide is turning!” Setira called from yards away. “We’ve routed the storm!”

The sizzling flash blinded Kilasha and the accompanying boom and crack deafened her.

“Setira!” she screamed, her voice hardly audible over the rain.

A flash of green fabric drew her eyes and she watched Setira’s body fall. A high cackle ghosted toward her on the wind and rage exploded in her breast.

Heedless of her own safety, Kilasha threw open her shields. She Quested far below them, in the little hills and valleys the gypsy Harpies infested. Then she Found it.


Council Secretary Moarven’s cry was lost in the wind and rain as Kilasha shot forward like an arrow out of the heart of the storm. Her silks whipped around her, the brilliant reds and blues muted by rain and mud. She angled around the flanks of a tall hill and saw the cottage below her.

“There!” She pointed, with hand and Othersense, and felt the static electricity erupt in the air around her as she pulled the lightening.

“Kilasha! It is forbidden!” Moarven’s warning shout was lost in a sudden deluge.

Kilasha’s only warning came when her ears popped. Her collarbone tingled. Then a searing flash of purple-white stabbed out of the sky above her, obliterating the building below in a cloud of splintered wood. From this height it look like matchsticks thrown from a tree.

She had a moment of satisfaction before the lightening retaliated. A small finger of electricity slapped sideways almost lazily, catching her finger. She felt her heart stutter, stop, and stutter again. And then she was falling. She heard Moarven’s cry above her, receding horribly fast.

She never felt the ground.

March FADness: Story 03/01/2008: Flying; Untitled (921 Words)

“She what?” Gray demanded.

“She flew away. Sir,” Malkin added. The youngster blinked earnestly at the mage, almost vibrating with sincerity.

“Flew away.”

Fenton wanted to laugh at the expression on Gray’s face, but knew it would hurt Malkin’s feelings. Instead, he cleared his throat. Gray threw an irritated glance his way and then nodded at Malkin.

“Thank you. You’re dismissed.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir,” Malkin said, and bobbed a quick bow. He whirled and disappeared through the door. They could hear his rope-soled sandals echoing on the stone.

“Did you know she was a shifter?” Gray demanded.

Fenton shrugged. “No.”

“No. No? That’s it? No?”

Fenton laughed. “Gray, what do you want me to say? The reports were sketchy at best. I’m not surprised they missed something important.”

“Something important?” Gray shouted. He whirled and swiped the goblet of wine off the table in one smooth motion. It flew gracefully through the air and shattered against the stones, the red soaking into the edge of the small rug by the fireplace.

“Waste of a good vintage,” Fenton admonished softly. “Gray. We’ve been expecting the Seers to fight us for some time now. This is not unexpected.”

He grunted. “Buggered timing.”

Fenton snorted. “You expected something different? Kilasha hasn’t forgiven you yet, you know.”

“Bitch,” Gray spat. He rubbed a hand over his eyes and blew his breath out his nose, the sound loud in the room. “Fine, Captain. You’re right, as usual.” He stopped and looked at Fenton, suddenly suspicious. “You think this is Kilasha’s doing?”

“You mean, on purpose? Directed at you, or us? No. I meant it in jest, actually. I don’t think she would truly fight you, not like this. No, I think this is the Council, honestly.”

Gray cocked his head. “Fenton,” he protested, “we’ve sought proof of their existence and none of our spies have detected anything out of the ordinary. Yet you persist.”

Fenton felt himself flush. “I persist because it is my contention they do exist. Do me the courtesy of believing that I have my own ways of gathering information!”

Gray studied him. “At last, some emotion.”

Fenton glared at him. “Poke the bear…”

Gray laughed. “Right. I had to be sure.” He cocked his head. “You still maintain that you can’t tell me the source of your information?”

“What do you think?”

Gray held up a hand. “All right. I’m just asking.” His dark brown eyes danced with laughter. “You can’t blame me for trying, Captain.”

Fenton looked away, over at the papers scattered over the worktable. “We’ve made a right mess in here,” he noted, more to change the subject than anything else.

The immense ruby on Gray’s left hand flashed when he waved that concern away. “I’ll straighten it later. I’m famished.”

“I want to go over these campaign notes again,” Fenton told him. He moved to the table and picked up a sheaf of paper from his Lieutenant. “Moore sent these from the front last night.”

Gray’s interest sharpened. “Indeed? Anything of interest?”

Fenton sat at the table. “I believe so. Two more confirmed shifter sightings, for one.”

“Anyone unexpected?”

“Dalira,” Fenton answered, rummaging for the relevant report.

“You’re joking!”

Fenton looked up, surprised at the mage’s vehemence. “Why?”

Gray shrugged, his brown hair bouncing and catching golden highlights. “I knew Dalira. She seemed quite normal to me.”

“Normal? What’s that got to do with anything?”

Gray whirled away and strode to the sideboard to rip a chunk off the loaf Cook left there for them.

“You still think this is about normalcy,” Fenton noted quietly. “Gray. This is not a war of magery. It’s a war of conquest. The Council will overthrow your Order, that’s what they’ve been after all along. And every year there are fewer acolytes.”

“So you’ve said.”

Fenton slammed his palm down on the table. “So is the truth!”

Gray looked over his shoulder at him, not reacting to his show of temper. “It’s not the fact that you’re wrong that bothers me, Captain. It’s the fact that I haven’t been able to disprove your theories.”

Fenton sat back, startled. “Have you tried?”

Gray leaned his hip against the sideboard. From this angle, the dark blue wool of his overvest seemed almost black. “Yes.”

“You’ve never told me,” Fenton commented. He felt his brows draw together in a frown and consciously tried to smooth his expression.

Gray’s mouth quirked up, showing he was aware of Fenton’s effort at self-control. “What good would it have done to tell you? Other than to make you even more smug?”

Fenton chuckled in spite of himself. “Touché.”

“Captain. I am not the only one who has tried. There are several of us.”

Lords of Chaos be praised. The mages were starting to see reason? “You and who else?”

“Lark, for one. Hart, Brown and Ferret.”

Fenton wanted to smile at the names the mages chose for themselves, but learned long ago the danger of appearing disrespectful to any of the Order. Instead, he looked down at his papers, not really seeing any of them. “So five of you.”

“It isn’t many, I know.”

“More than I would have expected,” Fenton countered. “Can you arrange a meeting?” He looked up at Gray.

“Perhaps,” the mage grunted.

Fenton sighed. He wished he could get a firmer answer. But it would have to do, for now.

At least until the Council showed itself. Then, they’d come out of the woodwork in droves.

Somehow, that thought didn’t give him peace.