Friday flash: Auburn Jones and the Reaper’s Urn

Auburn Jones and the Reaper’s Urn

The urn sat on the mantle, dusty blue with gold and cream accents — and one amorphous purplish blemish that Auburn Jones was rubbing at with a glower on her face. It wasn’t fair — just because she’d borrowed the keys to the Caddy. Death hadn’t been using it anyway!

“I’m going out. Do you think you might have that done before I get back?” Today, Death wore a white polo shirt with khakis. He gestured at the urn with his sunglasses. “You seem to have missed a spot.”

“Very funny.” Auburn threw the polishing cloth on the floor. “I’m through with this.”

Death crooked a smile at her. “The spot’s still there.”

The words were gentle, which infuriated Auburn more. It was bad enough being Death’s apprentice — it wasn’t like Death was going to retire, after all, so _what_ was she being trained for? — but then Death had to go and be so . . . so inevitable about everything. Her mistakes, punishments, Death’s reactions, everything.

Before she could decide what blistering retort to make (or to even come up with one, to be perfectly honest), Death sailed out the door, completely oblivious to her frustration or anything else she might be feeling. That, that — if she hadn’t already thrown the cloth on the floor, she certainly would have now. But she had nothing to throw unless it was the urn . . . and the spot was larger now, damn it all.

This was Death’s magic, of course. The spot wouldn’t be clean until Death decided it should be. So Death went off gallivanting in the hovercar Caddy while she stayed put like a good little apprentice. How was she ever going to learn anything this way?

Oh, right. She was supposed to be learning obedience. Like that was going to happen.

She pushed the urn off the mantle.

Rather than falling to the floor and shattering, the urn hovered — and the spot got bigger. Inevitably, of course.

The only thing inevitable about this job was how annoyed she got doing it. Apprentice herself to Death, learn cool magic, ride in a one-of-a-kind Caddy, be a bad-ass. That’s what she signed on for. Instead, she got a boss who wore polos and khakis, did lunch, and expected her to do housework if she broke the rules. She couldn’t even quit!

Not that she was sure she wanted to. She was more than half in love with Death, and she was pretty sure Death knew it, which made everything worse. Death humored her, treating her like a little girl with a crush on her first teacher. So what if Death was eternal? They still had things in common, like the car and — well, she’d think of something else. The point was, she wasn’t a little girl, and Death needed to realize it.

The blemish on the urn was now roughly the size of Auburn’s head.

Sighing, she set the urn back onto the mantel and leaned over to pick up the cloth. If she could get this done, she might have some time before Death got back from lunch to think about ways to get Death to notice her. She started rubbing.

524 words

My blog is participating in the Forward Motion Flash Friday Blog Group, a weekly flash fiction exercise (not that I’m managing weekly!). Check out the other participating blogs for more flash.

The inspiration for this flash came from two sources: a dream about Death’s hovercar Cadillac (a convertible, in case you’re curious) and Chuck Wendig’s Color Title Challenge. He even, inadvertently, gave me the exact title I used here.

Friday flash: Masks

The Sundark Festival was in full swing, with smoky scents, voices raised in laughter, and music from different instruments clashing in the streets. Irena paused and stepped, weaving her way through the crowd in the not-dance that everyone employed. A cluster of children surrounded a nut vendor, blocking her progress. Her stomach rumbled at the thought of the fresh roasted treats, and she joined the ragged line.

The vendor was quick, and she soon had a leaf-cup of nuts in her hand. As Irena turned away, someone jostled her elbow, spilling the nuts. Nettled, she spun to face the oaf. “Ay–!”

She stared into the blank face of one of the Masks, those who told of the winters to come, a single word of foretelling. Bad luck to yell at one. Swallowing her annoyance at losing her snack, she bobbed her head. “Have you a word for me?”

Silently, confusingly, it extended a hand.

Irena wasn’t sure what to do; she’d never encountered a Mask personally before. When the Mask gestured again with its hand, she took it and found something pressed into her hand. Opening her hand, she found a white disk, round and white, lacquered like the Mask’s face. She looked back up, but the Mask had gone.

She slipped the disk into her bag. She’d think about it later; now she had a festival to enjoy.

The disk slipped her mind until she turned toward home and saw a pair of Masks standing, heads leaning toward each other as if they conferred in whispers. They could talk? But of course they could; they shared words with people each festival. But no one ever heard more than a single word from a Mask in a lifetime. She itched to step closer, to hear what they said to each other.

Her hand crept inside her bag and grasped the disk there. What did it mean? It was like — and she knew the word she had been given. She crossed to join the other Masks, glad that she had had one last Festival before she hid herself behind a blank and lacquered face.

355 words

My blog is participating in the Forward Motion Flash Friday Blog Group, a weekly flash fiction exercise (not that I’m managing weekly!). Check out the other participating blogs for more flash.

Friday flash: Of Bugs and Family

Of Bugs and Family

“Hey, toss me my phone, would you?” Danny caught it in one hand without looking up from his work on the table. Sherry needed to know what he’d found — before he made his report to his boss.

“You going to tell me what’s so special about this bug compared to all the others we’ve found?” his partner Jen asked. “Or do I have to read your report, as usual?”

The manikin splayed on the table didn’t move. Bands clamped its arms and legs in place, and steel pins held its vestigial wings still. “Bugs” was the term the Department used for them — highly inaccurate, but better than the tabloid presses with their “Fairies are real!” and “Whatever you do, don’t clap your hands” headlines. The bugs had been showing up in increasing numbers around the globe for the past half dozen years, and the growing unrest of the public had forced the Department to step in.

Danny didn’t answer Jen. Instead, he spoke into his phone. “Sherry? I’ll be home late — Yes, I know it’s hard on you being all alone — Yes, I miss Troy, too — No, I’m not burying myself in my work. No. No. No — Look, we’ll talk about it when I get home.”

He ended the call and dropped the phone on the table. She hadn’t let him even try to explain. That was okay. He had enough information now for his boss to agree to Danny’s plan, and this bug would lead them to the nest. The nest — a place so far existing only in theory, where the bugs bred, and where they took humans to learn their shapes.

Danny glared down at the miniature version of his missing son’s face. With luck, when he found the nest, his son Troy would still be there.

Then Sherry would forgive Danny for working these long hours. She would see he’d done it for them, for family.

Today, his family would be healed.

319 words

My blog is participating in the Forward Motion Flash Friday Blog Group, a weekly flash fiction exercise (not that I’m managing weekly!). Check out the other participating blogs for more flash.

Friday Flash: Fairytale Household Improvement Service

Fairytale Household Improvement Service

You’ve had those months where the housework just isn’t getting done, the mildew has formed a group consciousness and is threatening to secede from the house if you don’t do something with the paper monster in the living room, and the books have made their own fortress — twice — to keep everyone else away. Everyone has. It seems all is lost, and you have no choice but convince a passing dragon to burn it down, or perhaps (more drastic, it’s true) walk away from everything and start over in a new town.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

For just the price of your firstborn child (who isn’t doing the housework either, may I point out?) or the low, low monthly payment of two village urchins, you, too, can be the proud owner of the Fairytale Household Improvement Service. This service comes complete with two random elves or brownies (suitable for tasks ranging from shoe mending to custom boot making), one cinder wench (of random gender, suitable for all sweeping, mopping, and cleaning), and one goose girl (also random gender, suitable for work with domestic animals). Your house will never be the same!

Fine print: In the event one or more portions of this service leaves your service, you are still required to continue payment for the duration of the contract. Not responsible for loss due to flood, fire, lightning, goose droppings, clothing for naked elves, acts of fairy godmothers, or psychiatry bills for people caught talking to bloody pieces of clothing. Your service may vary. Satisfaction is not guaranteed.

259 words

My blog is participating in the Forward Motion Flash Friday Blog Group, a weekly flash fiction exercise (not that I’m managing weekly!). Check out the other participating blogs for more flash.

Friday flash: Something Blue

Something Blue

Cherry blossom petals, drifting on the breeze, caught in Angelica’s hair. She grinned but did not falter in her notes, singing the change of seasons as Drake had taught her. With the orchard full of pink blooms and the hum of bees, spring had come to the hilltop, but the dragon had told her she needed to keep singing until even the apple trees had leafed out — another month at least!

And Verena hadn’t even made a match, like she had thought. Instead, Father had sent her off to some fusty school, and Mother wouldn’t tell her why, only that they would be getting her a new tutor soon. Whatever, it gave her plenty of time to talk to Drake or to go prowling around the forest with Smoke.

Speaking of the mist cat, where had she gone? She had been lying in the sun between some of the trees, soaking up the warmth. Now she’d vanished again, disappearing like the mist she was named for. Thank goodness Angelica wasn’t as flighty as her pet.

A high-pitched sound cut across the buzz of the bees, and Angelica flinched, remembering her trip to the woods with the apples. Something had happened there, but she still didn’t know what. Maybe today, she’d talk to Drake about it. Though he’d probably just give her another song to learn.

Behind her, she heard a crunch. She whipped her head around, worried that Smoke had broken a tree limb, but instead the mist cat crouched over something at the base of a tree, her fur standing rigid all along her back. A whiff of something noxious wafted toward Angelica, and this time, she did break off her song.

A wisp of cloud blew across the sun, making her shiver momentarily.

“Smoke! Drop it.” Angelica pushed to her feet and walked toward the mist cat, hoping it wasn’t too late to rescue whatever robin or songbird had been Smoke’s prey, but the mist cat didn’t move.

Glaring at her pet, Angelica reached down, ignoring Smoke’s warning growl, and twitched something from between the mist cat’s paws. Angelica stared at the piece of blue, sort of like a crab, hard shelled. What was it? Maybe a leg or a spine? She glanced around, but saw nothing it could come from.

“Where’s the rest of it?” she asked Smoke, as though the mist cat could understand her.

Like a typical cat, Smoke sat back and started cleaning herself, completely ignoring Angelica.

Fine, then. Angelica slid the bit of shell back into her pocket. She’d talk to Drake about it later, but she knew he wouldn’t give her any answers if she didn’t finish the season song first.

448 words

My blog is participating in the Forward Motion Flash Friday Blog Group, a weekly flash fiction exercise (not that I’m managing weekly!). Check out the other participating blogs for more flash.

And if you want to read a little more from me today, you remember when I posted the questions with Alex Fayle that I said I had some drabbles coming up there? Today’s the first one, “A Heartbeat Away.”

Friday flash: Foxglove


Lavender foxglove with deep violet throats grew along the walkway to the witch’s house. Abby considered picking a few, just to see what the witch would do, but decided it wasn’t worth the risk. Bad enough that she had to come here to beg for medicine for her mother; she didn’t want to anger the witch and owe more than she already would.

The wooden door, battered and scarred from previous visitors’ pounding, opened noiselessly as Abby approached. No one was in sight.

Her neck prickled, and Abby hung back, calling inside, “Hello? Mother Monkshood?”

“Ain’t home. Ha’n’t been for couple o’ week.”

Abby whirled around at the voice, surprised to see Dante the Hermit out of his hut. His hound, a mottled topaz-and-brown hunting breed, sat beside him, panting.

“What do you mean? I have to see her.” The witch was always home.

Doubt crossed his face and a touch of — sadness? “Ain’t there. Won’t be, no more. Tree fell on her. Witch be gone.”

Gone? Dead? A hollow spot opened up inside of Abby. If the witch wasn’t here, Abby’s mother would die. No, this wouldn’t do. She would not be left an orphan.

“Fine. I know where she kept the medicines. I’ll see whether there is enough for my mother.”

The hermit grunted in what might have been amusement or disbelief. “It ain’t like that. You take from her, even with her dead, you owe her. You go in, you’re gonna be the next witch.”

She hesitated. Was he telling the truth?

Abby looked at the door. It had opened for her, welcoming her. Before, she’d thought it unnerving. Now, it was downright frightening — an invitation from the house itself to make herself at home.

Was her mother worth the price?

She didn’t even have to think to know the answer to that. “Very well. Take the medicine to my mother for me and tell her what happened. Then you can go back to your hut.”

“You’re a little young to call ‘Mother,’ but that be the witchy title.”

“That will wait a few years, while I learn the craft, I think. For now, I will be Sister Foxglove.”

— The End —

357 words

The inspiration for today’s flash came from Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge, Five Random Words. The words I chose from his list were foxglove, orphan, hermit, hound, and topaz.

My blog is participating in the Forward Motion Flash Friday Blog Group, a weekly flash fiction exercise (not that I’m managing weekly!). Check out the other participating blogs for more flash.

Friday flash: Gruel


Martha stirred the thin gruel that simmered on top of the camp stove, wishing that Jack had brought the groceries so it would be a heartier meal. Some of the gruel had, improbably, stuck to the bottom, and she scraped at the pan to loosen it. The stove wasn’t really against the rules, but only because the landlord hadn’t thought about it. Who would be crazy enough to cook with open flame in a bamboo home with no ventilation?

Pretty much anyone who was forced to live in these apartments, partitioned on the inside of an old warehouse, that’s who. Martha wasn’t the only one cooking right now, and the mix of cabbage and chicken and beets and onions and four-day-old fish, plus a few things that smelled like they’d already turned, would have turned her stomach in better times. Now, she did her best to ignore it. Her neighbors, like her, just wanted to survive, and if they were all eating, she wouldn’t have any more visitors dropping in to ask her yet again how she was doing. Sirena hadn’t even knocked!

Outside, traffic rumbled in the heat of the day, and Martha wondered whether today would be the day they cleared the bridge. No one had expected one of the alien ships to go down in the Carquinez Strait, not with so much empty space in the Bay. Jack’s bad luck to be out there, stuck in his truck when he wanted to be up in the skies, shooting at the bugs before they shot at him.

Her bad luck, too, with no money for food on hand, the power out, and no way to get news except listening to gossip.

She stirred the gruel again. No point in waiting any longer. It was cooked; she might as well eat, keep up her strength for when Jack did make it home. She spooned it into a bowl and sat cross-legged on the floor, listening to snippets of conversations from her neighbors, the Garcias’ baby wailing again, the reassuring flow of engines in the street that said the world was getting back to normal, at least for now.

Martha sighed and closed her eyes. There was always hope.

The bamboo shook as a neighbor slammed a door downstairs. She opened her eyes and picked up her spoon. The gruel in the bowl sloshed back and forth, shaken by footsteps elsewhere. She took a bite and grimaced at the scorched undertone. Still, it was what she had. She took another bite.

The door opened behind her, and she whirled, ready to yell at Sirena again, but it wasn’t Sirena. Jack held the door open, swaying unsteadily, covered with dirt and grease.

“I hope you made enough to share,” he said. “I had to leave the groceries in the truck when I climbed out.”

Her first smile in days touched her face, warming her. She held out the bowl. “You can have it. We’ll worry about the groceries later.”

Jack was home.

— The End —

501 words

My blog is participating in the Forward Motion Flash Friday Blog Group, a weekly flash fiction exercise (not that I’m managing weekly!). Check out the other participating blogs for more flash.

Spring comes

Inside the tower, Drake huddled near the coal fire, curled to conserve its warmth. Goose call and robin song had been on the wind for the past week, but it was still too chilly for him. His wings would crack if he attempted to fly. He might make his way up to the roof to sun himself later, after the bricks had had a chance to warm, but for now, he would remain here.

Closing his eyes to slits, he hummed the fire-song his mother had taught him, crooning to the coals to stoke their flames, feel their twisting and turning light, immerse himself in their heat. Orange and red, banked for continuity, filling him.

“That’s not a wind-song, is it?”

Drat the girl! Angelica had no business here; she knew from years past that he would emerge when he was ready. He opened one eye an inch, letting the flame glint off it to spark at her, but he did not stop humming.

She ignored his truculence and sat down with her back against one of his talons. “I think Father has made a match for Verena. She’s as twittery as the birds right now, and no one in the castle has any time for me. Even my tutor has vanished!”

Drake chuckled, interrupting his song. The coals would continue to burn. “And did he vanish before or after Verena began to act so?”

Angelica snorted, a most unladylike sound that could have come from her mist cat. “What does that matter to anything?”

He didn’t answer, instead asking, “Has your father said anything about a match?”

“No, but then, he wouldn’t. I’m too young to worry about.” She shifted to look at him. “As I’m just in the way, I thought maybe you could teach me the next bit of wind-song? Whatever comes after focus?”

“Let me hear that you’ve been practicing first.” He knew she had; he could hear her every time she faltered on a note.

She sighed, but began to sing, softly at first, her voice gaining strength with each note, until they swirled through the inside of the tower, a tonal staircase of magic and sound. His voice joined hers, humming again the basic fire-song, adding warmth to the air, blending it to a place of joy. After a few minutes, they let their voices fade.

“Very good.”

She flushed at the praise.

“Now listen carefully. This next is the song that must be sung at the turn of the seasons, summoning the good to come. You don’t have much time to master it, so you will have to practice it — not just daily, but several times daily.” That should keep her from fretting about what was going on with Verena, and she would have the time to do so if her tutor really wasn’t here to give her other assignments.

He sang it through five times before she attempted to copy it. Then they spent an hour more working on her tones, her splits, and her note carries until he was satisfied that she understood the basics of what she had to do. “Come back in three days to show me.”

She left, and he watched her go, a warm glow in his throat that had nothing to do with the coals. She would make a good singer in time. He closed his eyes and listened to the soft echoes of her song, captured in the tower by repetition. Beyond, he heard again the birdcalls that presaged spring. It was enough.

588 words

I don’t even want to think about how long it’s been since I’ve done my Friday flash, let alone a Smoke and Drake tale. Like Drake, my brain shuts down in winter.

My blog is participating in the Forward Motion Flash Friday Blog Group, a weekly flash fiction exercise (not that I’m managing weekly!). Check out the other participating blogs for more flash.

Friday flash: Autumn leaves

Autumn Leaves

Leaves crunched underfoot as Angelica slipped under the trees. Father didn’t like her passing beyond the grass, but it wasn’t as if she’d gone out of sight — she could still see the castle quite clearly. And even if Father and his archers couldn’t see her, Drake could from the top of his tower, as could Smoke, who slunk along the shadows, quiet even among the deepest leaves.

And how else was she going to test out what Philomena had told her? A charm to tell what the coming year would bring — who could resist?

Still, it was kind of creepy here with the oak branches reaching up against the sky like so many dead things, blackberry bushes grabbing at her skirt and the bag over her shoulder, and bird calls that vanished mid-note. There was a smell in the air she didn’t recognize, either, layered beneath the moldering leaves. It reminded her of the kitchen and the middens and the straw where Father’s hounds slept, but it wasn’t like any of them precisely. Nervously, she began to whistle the minor wind-song Drake had taught her. He had said it was good for focus, implying she needed that, and she should practice it whenever she felt uneasy or confused. This qualified, although she wouldn’t tell him that.

She pushed between two more brambles that caught at her clothes, exclaiming as a thorn scraped her right arm, and found a pond in front of her, quiet but not stagnant, tiny ripples here and there where a leaf had just fallen to join the others scattered across its surface. A fallen oak stretched along the near bank, white mushrooms stair-stepping up its sides. The trees didn’t block the sky here, letting shafts of sunlight slide through the blaze of leaves and into the green-brown water, hinting at boulders and snagged trees below. Perfect!

Smoke chuffed, the first sound the mist cat had made since they left the castle, then leapt to a branch that stretched out over the water in a patch of sun. Such a cat!

Now what had Philomena said? Yes, the apple first — peel it, eat it, throw away the core, then drop the peel into the middle of the pond.

Seemed silly, and Verena would probably laugh at her for even listening to Philomena. Angelica flushed. Verena was always a proper lady, and Angelica didn’t want her scorn. On the other hand, to do something Verena hadn’t . . .

She sat on the fallen tree, swinging her legs up to cross them under her skirts. Next, Angelica pulled the bag from her shoulder and took out the apple and the knife she’d borrowed from the kitchen — well wrapped in a towel so she wouldn’t cut herself, of course. The towel went across her lap to catch the peel.

The off smell intensified, and Angelica thought she heard Smoke growl — as if the cat would do that! A branch crashed nearby, and she jerked, startled. Sharp pain in her hand made her flinch, and she looked down and realized she’d cut herself when she jumped.

Ow, ow, ow! She shook her hand, and drops of blood hit apple, dress, and tree. No — Mother would notice blood for certain. She blotted the blood with the towel, then wrapped the towel around her hand, leaving her fingers as free as she could. Her skirt would have to do to catch the peel.

If this didn’t work, Philomena was going to hear about it, for certain.

The apple mostly fit into her hand, even with the wrapping, and she began slowly peeling the fruit, stopping as necessary to turn it in her hand. Philomena hadn’t said the peel had to be a single cutting, but it only made sense, right? If she had to drop it in the pond? Without thinking too much about it, she started whistling again, letting her movements fall into the rhythm of the music, feeling the breeze playing with her hair, just being in the moment.

The end of the peel dropped into her lap. She broke off her song. Some blood had seeped through the towel, and there were blotches on the fruit. She grimaced, but took a bite. A little metallic, but the crisp tartness of the apple was stronger, and she quickly ate it. Now came the true test.

She set the knife on the tree trunk, scooped up the peel, and stood. The middle of the pond looked too far to throw the peel, but the tree went out partway. Carefully, she clambered to stand on top of it. Biting her lip, she walked toward the pond.

This time, there was no mistaking Smoke’s growl for anything else — part mrowl of a housecat, part snap of a wolf, it was clearly the sound of an unhappy animal.

Angelica paused and looked around. Everything looked as it had. She tilted her head to look at the mist cat, only to see Smoke staring back at her, the tip of the cat’s tail lashing the branch she lay on.

“Don’t you dare pounce on me,” Angelica scolded the cat. She returned her attention to the tree in front of her. Yes, she could get close enough, she was certain of it.

Five more steps. Bunch the peel into a ball and heave.

The water shimmered blue just before the peel struck, the clearest magic Angelina had ever seen, light lancing upward, clearing the water, striking her in the eyes. Startled, she lost her balance and toppled backward. As she fell, she thought she saw something the same mottled green-brown as the pond, part insect, part shaggy pelted beast, run along the tree trunk where she had just been.

She hit the water, and her eyes snapped shut in reflex. She opened them almost immediately to see Smoke sitting on the tree trunk as if guarding her. Angelica spit out brackish water and dragged herself upright. Using the trunk to steady herself, she waded back to the bank.

“That could have gone better.” She pushed her hair back and wiped her face. The cut hand was bad enough, but to return to the castle looking like this? She would probably be locked in her room with nothing to do but write essays for her tutor. For a week!

Sighing, she picked up the knife. She could at least return it to the kitchen. “Come on. I’m going to go back to the grass, lie in the sun, and hope it dries my dress.”

And do her best not to wonder what that thing was she had seen — or why Smoke had acted as if she saw it, too. No, much better to think the blood on the apple had messed up the charm, or Philomena had been wrong all along.

Certainly, Angelica wasn’t going to tell the other girl about this attempt, nor anyone else. No future here to be seen at the turning of the year. Far better to think about more concrete things.

She unwrapped the towel to look at her hand once more and almost dropped towel and knife both in surprise. Only a faint line showed where she had cut herself — and if the line shimmered with a faint blue hue, that was just the shadows of the forest. No magic here at all.

— The End —

1,222 words — not exactly flash length, I know!

It’s been a while since I wrote anything about Smoke or Drake. I hope you enjoy this little dip back into their world. Yes, clearly, there’s a lot more story here to come. Note that I did add a “Smoke and Drake” tag (you can find it at the bottom of this post) so you can find all the linked stories more readily.

My blog is participating in the Forward Motion Flash Friday Blog Group, a weekly flash fiction exercise (not that I’m managing weekly!). Check out the other participating blogs for more flash.

Friday flash: The Orichalcum Bride

The Orichalcum Bride

Elpis tossed the scroll upon the floor next to her brother Theron. “A treaty? A marriage to Kallistrate, daughter of our enemy?”

“Her dowry is the last orichalcum mine of Atlantis. Do you know what we can do with that wealth?”

“What difference does it make what her dowry is? You are married already, and our brother is dead.”

“So you marry her. It’s not like she’s expecting romance.”

She looked down at him, but he had gone back to studying his maps, content to have disposed of the matter. Her lips pinched together, but she said nothing. He would find, too late, that if she took Kallistrate as a bride, Elpis would have the power that went with that orichalcum.


The wedding cortege arrived, as gaudy a display as any their city-state could produce, banners flaring and trumpets blaring, courtiers in costume, profusions of petals for the princess to place her feet upon. The bride herself rode at the end of the procession, face hidden within a helmet, her armor traced with the prized metal that only she controlled.

Elpis felt a flame within her. All this would be hers. Her brother saw only the riches. Kallistrate’s home saw only the prospect of peace.

Only Elpis saw both — peace with her in control of both city-states, and the riches to bring that about. It helped that Kallistrate seemed comely, but it was not necessary. Elpis stepped forward to meet her bride.


Theron had been right about one thing. Kallistrate didn’t expect romance, and when Elpis retired with her to their bedchamber, Kallistrate strode away to stare out an archway at the hills beyond.

Elpis stood behind her, not touching. “It is not exile. You can return.” Would return, in fact, with Elpis at her side, bringing peace at last. And then? But one home at a time. “You are not lost.”

“No, never lost.”

Was that regret?

Before Elpis could ask, Kallistrate turned, and the makhaira in her hand left no questions. She held the blade even with Elpis’s belly. “Are you with me or against me?”

“This . . . was not how I imagined this going.”

“I’m certain it was not. My army enters at dawn. Will you surrender so there can be peace, or am I to be a widow?”

If Elpis had not expected this, Theron would be even more surprised. And now she would not have to be the one to banish him.

She bowed halfway in submission. “I surrender, my wife.” Righting herself, she asked, “Is the orichalcum mine not real, then?”

Teeth flashed in Kallistrate’s face. “It’s real. It just happens to be underneath your palace — which is now mine.”

— The End —

444 words

My blog is participating in the Forward Motion Flash Friday Blog Group, a weekly flash fiction exercise (not that I’m managing weekly!). Check out the other participating blogs for more flash.

The inspiration for this week’s flash came from Chuck Wendig’s Roll for Your Title blog post.