Friday, January 25, 2019

OneWord: Controller

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I picked the controller up after my boyfriend left the room. I never understood the fascination, but I wiggled the joystick and pushed some buttons, watching the screen character react accordingly. Moderately amusing, but nothing fascinating. Until I hit the wrong buttons together. Or maybe it was the right ones? But either way, my comfortable position on the couch vanished, the world started to disintegrate, and the last sound I heard was the controller hitting the floor before I found myself in his game.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Friday Flash #72 -- Daughter of Nightmares and Smoke

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Once considered peaceful, the dragons came one night and scorched the villages.   For days nothing could be seen but smoke.  The people would try to rebuild, but every few months the dragons would return.  It was a time of terror.  Hunting parties were sent to get revenge; no one returned.  

And then one day, the skys were empty.  No longer did the occasional shadow drift over the village.  No more did children cower from the giant creatures from the sky.  Nobody knew why they attacked or where they went, but over time, that became unimportant. Things were quiet, and people rebuilt out of their grief.  And as the children who had seen their villages destroyed grew up and gave birth to children of their own, memories faded.  By the time their grandchildren had grandchildren, understanding of dragons had changed.  From peaceful and harmless, to horrifyingly vicious, to nothing more than a wisp of a myth. A story to scare young children into behaving.

But time is a tricky thing, and to the dragons, it moves differently.  Only one generation had passed since The Great Betrayal, and memory of it was clear.  After all, she did live with them.  Tall and graceful, Alesha laughed as she skipped between the caves, easily avoiding the dragon chasing her.  She whipped around a boulder, turning at the last second and ducking under the dragon who almost had her.  She poked his belly as he flew over top, “Gotcha Tren!” she laughed, his roar made the rock she was standing on shake, but didn’t phase her in the slightest.   They were siblings.  Friends.  And she had very definitely won.  Again.

It’s time to come home, the thought from their mother was as clear in her head as if it had been spoken.  Tren, having received the same message turned and headed toward her.  With a running leap, Alesha hopped on for the flight home.

She knew she was different, of course.  Small and fragile, but nimble and creative.  She couldn’t breathe fire, but she could build it.  She couldn’t fly, but she could access spaces the dragons would never be able to.  Her dragon family accepted things as they are, as they’ve always been, while Alesha questioned everything.  They complemented each other.  The smarter ones appreciated that and considered her family; the lesser ones treated her as little more than a pet.  A curiosity.  A spoil of war.

When they returned to the roost, Alesha and Tren were surprised to discover the elder dragons had gathered.  Tren aborted his landing and circled, hoping to avoid interrupting the council, but Tasque, the head of the council, noticed him and with a thought compelled him to join them.

Alesha slid off Tren as soon as he landed, preferring to face whatever was coming standing.  But while she stood calmly and confidently, her hand quivered gently where it rested against Tren’s shoulder.  

What’s going on? she asked.

The time has come for you to fulfil your destiny.  The voice in her mind was powerful, and not one who had ever deigned to speak to her before.   She met Tasque’s stare head on and held it for a moment.  She could feel a wave a pride wash over her – the dragon who had adopted her so long ago was pleased.

What do you need me to do?  Her heart beat faster and she had to consciously stop herself from fidgeting.  So long she had wondered why the dragons had adopted and raised her.  It was the one question nobody would ever answer.  

You remember, of course, The Great Betrayal?   How could she forget?   Her heart sank as she was reminded yet again of the time the dragons had attempted to aid humans, only to have five of their eggs stolen.   The dragons had found four – three of which had been destroyed; the fourth hatched and grew up to be Tren.  But the fifth egg, even after months of searching, remained hidden.  And with the humans getting closer to their nest, they had to call off the search and moved the entire flight to their current home.  But when they did that, they brought one thing that was not theirs.  They brought an infant girl.  Her.

We have located the last egg.   It will not hatch until it is returned to us, but we cannot retrieve it.  You and Tren will go together, get the egg, and bring it home.

Her eyes widened and she glanced at Tren.  She was going to go to the human’s world?   Before her thoughts could start spinning too quickly, her mother’s familiar voice interrupted.  

Alesha, you’ll need to remember all we’ve taught you about humans.  Tren will help you get there, but he must not be seen, so you will be on your own.  Several of their generations have passed since we adopted you – with us you’re still so young, but there you will age quickly.  We believe we’ve found which castle the egg is locked in, but that’s all we know.  You’ll need to find a way to get in, rescue the egg, and get out quickly.  You can navigate in the dark nearly as well as we can; most humans cannot – use that to your advantage.  You must speak of us to no one.  Dragons to them are creations of nightmares and smoke.  And you are our daughter.  Never forget it.

Do you understand? The leader’s voice interrupted.

I do.

Will you undertake this task asked of you by the dragon council?

I will.

Then it be done. We will watch for your return with each new moon.  May the stars guide your way.

Alesha bowed her head as she’d be taught, then gracefully vaulted on to Tren’s back so he could take them out of the council.  Tren tried to talk to her, but her thoughts were flowing too quickly for her to hear him.  She was going home.  A home she’d never known, true, but one where there were people like her.  And maybe, just maybe, once she’d rescued the egg, she could find a way to bridge the worlds.

The daughter of nightmares and smoke yes, but also of dreams and starlight.


Friday, September 21, 2018

Friday Flash #71: The Magic of the Night

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In the darkness of the night the trees rustled as the warm wind blew wildly.  

“Do you hear them?” I asked.

“Hear what?”

“The fey?”   

My boyfriend just rolled his eyes at me.  He had no time for magic and mystery, proud his feet were firmly planted in the cement of reality.   He couldn’t hear the whisper on the wind.   But I could – just beyond my comprehension.  I could sense it, but not quite make out the words.

Marc locked the recycle bin safely in the garage.  “You coming?”

“I think I’ll stay out a bit,” he rolled his eyes and went inside, tolerant of but not understanding my more whimsical side.

My gaze was drawn upward, captured by the brilliance of the harvest moon.  The clouds formed pictures as they passed in front of it.  I watched for a while, my imagination seeing images that weren’t really there.  A dragon. A cityscape.  A mother with her child.  

But then I realized it wasn’t my imagination, and I wasn’t seeing random images.  The coulds were forming letters as they drifted over the moon.   I squinted and furrowed my brow, struggling to see more clearly, but the letters dissipated leaving wisps of a cloud that faded from sight once they passed the beam of the moon’s light.

I closed my eyes and listened to the wind.  My hair whipped around my face, but I did nothing to contain it, enjoying the wildness of the night.  I felt my heartbeat slow; my breathing became deeper; I smiled, feeling utterly and completely relaxed.  

I opened my eyes and let them return to the moon, relaxed and soft I saw the letters form.  And in the darkness of the warm summer night, I read the message that would change my life.

And with a smile, I turned and entered the house.

Friday, June 29, 2018

FridayFlash #70: Vaalea's Story

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Stories are often told of princesses being rescued from dragons; as far as I know, I’m the only princess who had ever been rescued *by* a dragon. I was so young – I didn’t really understand all that had happened, or have any understanding of all that would happen. My sister, who I’d only just met, called the dragon, Drazul, and I climbed on. I was fearless and he was amazing. He spoke to me and made me laugh. And away we went.

It took forever to get there. Days? Weeks? I don’t know. It seemed like forever, but I was a child -- a year is a lifetime then.   He told me all about the special school I was going to; a school for people like me. We landed on top of a mountain. Slowly the mist cleared to reveal a castle, whose sides shimmered as though a mirage. Drazul directed me to head inside, and I was so excited – I’m sure I bounced.

There were other kids, and for the first time I could remember, I was allowed to play with them. My roommate, Adalyn, was the same age as me, but she seemed so much older. She was calm, always organized, “well put together” my mum would’ve said, and never got into trouble with the rest of us. But somehow, we still became friends.

We played, we learned, and we grew. Every once in a while, the dragons would bring us a new student. They would wander in; some were excited, but most were terrified. And thus we learned about the outside world, where magic was at best feared and at worst hunted. And so we stayed where we were safe, and we learned, and we practiced. And over time, we became strong.

But eventually, I grew up. And as I did, I wondered. I remembered so little of my life before I’d come. Why had my mother or my sister never come to visit? Drazul flew me here, surely he could’ve flown them. And I started to think that maybe it was up to me to go find them.

My first thought was to call Drazul and ask him to take me. He’d flown me here so many years ago, and stopped by at least a couple times a year since. We’d talk and play and sometimes he’d take me flying. But he never answered my questions of home, always just said I was better here. And eventually I stopped asking. Unfortunately though, I’d never learnt to call him; Drazul came when he wanted to and left on a whim – he never stuck around for long.

I slung my backpack over one shoulder, everything I valued inside. There were no rules against leaving – we could go at any time; the only rule was that once you left, you could never return. It was an easy life at the school. One where I knew everybody and was known. I could be myself and practice my magic, and perhaps one day even teach. It was a good life. But it wasn’t the life I was destined for, and somewhere, deep inside, I knew it.

I had said my goodbyes, but purposely not told anybody exactly when I would leave. It would be hard enough without a crowd. As I slid through the door, I felt a hand on my shoulder. Looking back over my shoulder, I saw Adalyn carrying her matching bag. “You didn’t think you’d be going without me, did you?” she asked.

---

Author's note -- this is the start of a sequel to Jezina's Story.   For more on the school mentioned, see my short story Returning.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

#FridayFlash #69: Don't try this at home

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This story was completely inspired by a YouTube video posted on my wall this week.   For your entertainment, it is included at the end.

As always, comments very welcome!

Enjoy :)
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I followed the instructions so carefully.  I mixed all the powders together, then gently misted the liquid, before finally packing the whole thing around the dragon egg.   Toy dragon that is -- one of the little figurines I had bought five-for-a-dollar at the dollar store.  It would make for a great bath bomb; my nieces would love it.  And of course I had to test one.  After all, I couldn't risk giving them away and having them not work.   If only I'd known...   But how could I?   I still don't really believe it.

Sure enough the bomb fizzled and quickly turned my bath black.  I wasn't sure I liked that aspect -- would pick a friendlier colour next time.   I felt around the tub for the tiny plastic egg, but when I found it, it had already opened.

Disappointed, I started feeling in the black water to find the little plastic toy.  And let when my hand landed on something scaly!   I flew out of the tub and grabbed a towel -- glaring at the water that another inhabitant had ruined for me.

As though expecting something to attack, I carefully reached over, then yanked the plug out and jumped back!   The drama was unnecessary as the black water calmly receded.   I thought maybe a lizard of some type?   But those don't tend to live here.

When the bath drained, a little creature about the size of my hand stood and angrily shook the bath water off.   He was a deep purple colour with wings that glistened.  He cocked his gecko-like head, seeming to study me as I was him.  The moment only lasted a few seconds before I had a very clear picture in my head of me picking him up and getting him out of the tub.

Not at all sure that was a good idea, I nonetheless followed the suggestion.  The creature gave what I'm convinced was a nod of thanks before walking out of the room, his wings folded carefully behind him and tail raised just slightly off the ground.

Panicked barking jolted me out of my shock and I raced to my dog Casey in time to see the tiny creature spread his disproportionately large wings and hiss.   Casey, my fierce protector, backed down instantly.   He could've squashed this creature in a heartbeat, but no, he lay down with a whimper, flicking his eyes from me to the creature.   Sorry Casey, wish I could help...

I opened the door to the yard, pleased when the creature wandered outside.   Relieved I waited an hour for him to leave.   Then two.  But every time I looked outside, he was still there, sunning himself on a rock and growing at an observable rate.   After only a few hours, he was bigger than my German shepherd.

When it came time for dinner, I wondered if I should feed him.   What would he eat?   Google wasn't able to suggest anything, and some instinct stopped me from posting pictures online.   As I went to peer in the fridge and see what options there might be, I saw the other bath bombs.

No way.

But looking from them to my creature, now the size of a Shetland pony, I had to accept that some how my five-for-a-dollar toy and homemade egg, had hatched an actual dragon.   And I had no idea what to do with him.

----

What started it all:

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

OneWord: Stunt

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I couldn't believe the stunt he'd just pulled.   He'd gone from nobody to king of the school in seconds -- and while it made the administration look bad, he'd done it in a way that hurt nobody and caused no harm.   He would be a legend.  If only he had stopped there...

Friday, April 7, 2017

#FridayFlash 68: Returning

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This one is for Catherine, who asked "but what happened before?"
Annie -- your "what happened after?" is a much longer story ;)

Thanks for reading!

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"You have to take her," the frantic whisper commanded.  Leesha grabbed the brown bundle of fabric as it was shoved at her, before realizing what it held.  Who it held.

"What?  No.  Your highness, I can't..."

"She is not safe here," the voice less frantic, more commanding.  The queen speaking rather than the mother.  "My husband will kill her.  You must take her, and I cannot know where she's gone.  Keep her safe.  Keep her secret.  Until the time is right for her to return.  You will know when the time is right to tell her."

The queen handed Leesha a small sack.  Its contents jingled as she grasped it, letting her know exactly what it contained.  Its weight suggested there was enough money to last a lifetime.  

The queen's face softened as she looked at her first-born daughter, cursed with hair pure white, as her own had been.  The baby gurgled in her sleep and the queen reached for her, but as Leesha moved to hand the child back, the queen quickly stepped aside, straightening away from the child and glancing quickly over her shoulder.

"You must go now!"  The lines deepened on her forehead, but the tension evident did not disguise the pain in her eyes.  

Leesha gave a small curtsey and backed away from her queen's haunted gaze.  What did she know was coming?  Why would she fear the king?   What could possibly be bad enough that she would send her beloved daughter away with a maid?   And why her? 

Leesha's mind whirled with questions as she returned to her chamber to gather her meager belongings.  She made her way through the castle sticking to shadows and rarely used passageways, grateful for the princess's silence.  She looked longingly at the route to the kitchen, but didn't dare visit there with the child.  She didn't know how long she'd have before someone missed the girl, or if the queen would protect her if she were caught.

She thought wistfully of the friends she'd miss and hoped one day she'd be able to return.  Leesha had no family to miss her, she was sure that was a large part of why she was chosen.   What the queen didn't know, what nobody knew, was that she did have family.  The question was whether that family would take her back in.

She glanced at the baby's face – only her eyes visible through the blankets, and those mostly hidden by shadow.  Her white hair was covered – an oddity here, Leesha would take her where she would fit in, a place where Leesha never had.

She scanned the field and saw nobody before leaving the shelter of the wall and walking calmly but quickly toward the northern gate.  She'd picked a side exit, off the normal guard route, where she knew there'd only be one guard.  She hoped it might be a friend, someone she could convince she was never there.  Or, failing that, someone who could be paid to forget -- at least for a little while.

Leesha heard sounds up ahead.  Two people?  There were never two guards here.  And then her eyes widened and a smile touched the corner of her lips as she realized what she was hearing.  The guard, being less than diligent, had found himself some company to occupy his long shift.   Leesha's luck held as the baby slept while they slipped out the little-used exit.   

She hurried across the field, trying to hold the child in such a way as to not jostle her.  The steady rhythm kept her sleeping, and her silence was necessary to their escape.  She reached the forest but found the trees too think to cut through, so stuck to the edge, hiding in the shadows.   She shortly found a path -- one of the smaller ones she knew lead to town.   

Never before had the dark seemed so complete, the night so overwhelming.  But still she walked even as adrenaline began to give way to fatigue.  By the time she got to town, shed concluded she couldn't seek help; not with the princess in her arms.   To do so would be to risk not only herself and the child, but also any who helped her.

Terrified, Leesha hid the girl in a hollow of a tree off the poorly used path and hoped she'd make it to town and back quickly enough.   She quickly bought travel necessities and foods she could make into a gruel for both of them before visiting the docks.  A reasonably safe place, Leesha affected a bored countenance while negotiating travel for herself and her daughter up the river.   Her heart beat wildly from the lie, but the weathered boatman didn't even look at her, just agreed to a price and told her to return before his crew finished loading.

Leesha hurried back, fear making it hard to swallow, but the baby was still there and fine, just starting to fuss and wave her tiny fists in the air.  She fed her quickly before rebundling her, careful to ensure her hair was entirely covered.

Only once the boat was on its way with Leesha on it, did the reality of what she was doing sink in.  As she dozed on the gently rocking ship, she remembered the village shed left as a girl.  A small village it was bound by stricter rules than most.  She recalled as a young child, visitors had been encouraged, but by the time she was a teen and ready to explore herself, things had changed.   A wall had been built that few were allowed to cross.  For the good of the village, the elders said.   They knew what was out there and had to protect against it.  Those who wished to leave could, but they were not guaranteed to be welcomed back.  Leesha was afraid the hard words she had exchanged with her mother before leaving would ensure she would not be permitted to return.

The journey took several weeks, and while there were some challenges, they made their way there together and unharmed.  The wall was much smaller than Leesha remembered, and the gate stood open.

keelah!” Leesha heard a childs excited shout and the nostalgia it brought helped calm her nerves.

The baby whimpered and Leesha softened her hold.  She focused on calming the girl as she entered the village shed sworn never to return to.  As she looked up a woman stepped out of the crowd, her face pale but proud.   Not a welcome, but more encouragement than Leesha had expected.

She held the bundle out and uttered the lie that would change lives. Mom, Id like to introduce you to your granddaughter.  Jezina.