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.

“Two!”

“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.

“Kilasha!”

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.

Flash Fiction Carnival

The FFC Theme for March is alphabet/numerals. 1,000 word limit. By letters, they mean alphabet letters. This can take you anywhere you can imagine and follow any genre. The numbers can be numerals of any flavor. Arabic numerals, Roman numerals, Mayan ones. Or even some system you create yourself.

Go here for more information. Due 12:00 P.M. EST on 03/12/2008.

Thursday 13 – 135th Edition

My Thursday Thirteen…

13 Hobbies That Sound Fun
1 – Writing novels
2 – Swimming
3 – Belly dancing
4 – Knitting a sweater
5 – Knitting beaded jewelry
6 – Ceramic sculpture
7 – Pysanky (Ukrainian decorated eggs)
8 – Hammered dulcimer
9 – Scuba diving
10 – Horseback riding
11 – Silver art clay
12 – Make a Japanese paper lantern
13 – Woodworking

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in other’s comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!Leave your link in a comment, and I’ll link back to you here:
Kat’s Thursday Thirteen
Dawn’s Thursday Thirteen
Gwen’s Thursday Thirteen