Flash Fiction: Dealings (804 words)

As far as landdwellers went, Cabre Daylor wasn’t bad. He was tall,  hands callused and skin tanned from hours of work in the sun, even if his clothes looked like he spent most of his time sitting behind a gilt and carved desk. He had brown hair, fashionably long, so that it absently curled back from his forehead and stopped just below his ears. His beard was kept short, and he smiled with the sort of charm that was molded, not bred, but was still easy to fall into. It left room to wonder if he wasn’t hiding something, but never pointed to any shadow.

He owned a ship. It was just large enough to ride the waves of the open ocean, out where land was no longer in sight. He had made the trip to the islands twice. He arrived with all hands, and it was assumed that since there was no mutiny between voyages, the passings had been tolerable.

He played tricks in business, and everyone knew it. He himself seemed to do it more for fun than for greed, and when he was caught, he laughed. He didn’t mind being called a cheat, because that’s what he was. He wouldn’t stand for smuggler, thief, or idiot, because he wasn’t.

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Flash Fiction: Brother Code (244 words)

Trent arrived to breakfast looking as if someone had thrown deep purple paint in his face, and he’d been too timid to scrub it out of the corner between his eye and his nose. And he’d missed a large bit hiding under his eyebrow.

It took his four older brothers one moment to realize some jackum had punched him in the face, one more to snap their eyebrows down into heavy glares, and another to shove their chairs back from the table.

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Wednesday Serial: Farther Part XXIX

EOIN

Danta stopped with his next sentence ready on his tongue, mouth already open. He blinked, then slowly closed his lips. Eoin offered him a smile, but Danta did not return it.

“You were on their side,” Danta said quietly. “You were in those battles to protect their borders.”

“That doesn’t matter,” Eoin told him. “Once you’ve seen what my brothers can do…” He shrugged. “We frightened them. They saw three keimon who could have held a battlefield against thousands, if they’d had to. And then they looked around, and saw how many keimon were living beside them, and I imagine they felt as if they were waking up inside a locked chest. You wouldn’t know it, but you’re watching kings panic.” He nodded down toward the field, to the scattered lines of horses and walkers and wagons. The mix of voices murmured up the hill. The wind hissed in the grass, stirred the trees on the far side. It bit into their clothes, and Eoin resisted the urge to step out into the sunlight for heat. Below, he watched the walkers falter against the heavy breeze and tuck themselves closer together.

“You could still go down to them,” Danta said.

Eoin shook his head and didn’t look at him. “No,” he said, on half a laugh. “If you’re afraid of nothing else in this world, Danta, fear the panicked man. There’s a madness in it. And a strength like you’ve never seen.”

Danta shifted on his horse, and did not speak again.

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Why I Love That Scene – Leaning

This is not a fight. She might be crying, he may be shouting, she may be holding herself together with shaking fingers, he might be clenching his jaw, but this is not a fight.

It’s a collision. An accident. Two hearts skidding with a sound like ripping metal. They’re both hurting, and they’ve known each other so long – piled trust into each others’ hands and hearts and never seen it dropped or abandoned – that they’ll show this pain without hesitation. This is the only place to show it, here, where they could lay it out between them, cut it in half, share it, shoulder it, use that cut edge as the one smooth place where they could grip the jagged mess. Together.

They’ve sent everyone else out, so they can stand alone in a room that echoes every word, strengthens every shout, and swallows every whisper, too large for just them. And it isn’t an effort to hide this, to quiet this, to save their embarrassment, or give them freedom to say what they want as loud as they want. She just doesn’t need to talk with anyone but him, and he’s always run to her. They’re the only ones they could ever want in this room.

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Flash Fiction: Deathless (2006 words)

Lediah’s Name Day passed in all the usual ways.

The night before was almost sleepless, and the first few hours of the morning passed between nervous shakes and stifled yawns. As she ate breakfast, she tapped her foot so quickly against the kitchen floor that her mother reached out and stilled her knee with a heavy hand, then stilled the rest of her with a wordless look. Lediah glanced around the table at the rest of her family, and swallowed her rice and broth as best she could.

The tests started mid-morning, deep inside a square stone building that felt as if had been constructed to hold people down to the earth. The walls were plain. The ceiling was high. The windows and doors were scarce. Lediah felt as if she had walked into a cave, the way her voice and motions echoed in the empty space. Her judges felt twice as tall, the way they spoke in the reverberating air. The sun continued its pace in secret, counting time somewhere she couldn’t see. Everything seemed to stretch and press in on her. When they finally announced that she’d passed, she was sweating, exhausted, and muscles slung loose with relief.

She walked out in the daylight, surprised at the shape of the shadows. Then she saw her parents. She smiled. Her momma beamed. Her father grinned. They both wrapped her in a hug, and walked her out past the front wall. Her teacher, Anxo had passed just before them, but had already disappeared, as he was supposed to. He’d left behind her new name, scrawled across the grey stone in clean white chalk. Lediah read it as she walked, facing it until her neck couldn’t bend any farther. Her mother and father read it, and said nothing aloud. The rest of her family followed after, just as silent.

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Gwendoogle Part LX – One Cape, Two Degrees, Three Quotes

Gwendoogle

Answers served with a couple disclaimers and some adamant statements of value

Flip the Otter searched: Why are English degrees important?
Disclaimer: I own an English degree. I worked hard to get my English degree, for four years, under professors who could scare the heartbeat out of me and who did make me stretch until even Mr. Fantastic looked at me pityingly. I valued that English degree so highly, that I paid ninety thousand dollars to study at a university that was well-respected for its English program. I have a bias in favor of English degrees, but I’ll try not to use reasons like “because English is awesome!”

My mother once told me that she preferred math over English, because math was easily graded. There was one right answer, everything else was the wrong answer. You were taught the system, taught to work it through, and at the end, it was easy to see if you had succeeded or failed. Nothing was hung on a guess. It was all black and white.

English was a mash of frustrating grays. There was no right answer. There was no system to perform. There was a series of guesses, each one hanging off the last, some of which could be turned from stable to implosive by moving a comma.

And I’m going to argue that that’s exactly why English degrees are important.

It is important to know facts, to understand systems like “two plus two will always equal four (in base five or higher),” to be able to calculate accurately, to be able to logic out absolute truths. It is equally important to understand that there are worthwhile things that can’t be understood that way.

Love is incalculable, but requires consideration so that we can separate it from want, need, or admiration. Family has a definition, but it won’t stop family doesn’t end with blood from being true. Courageous and fearless look similar, are not the same, are very close, and its the gap between them that matters. Failure and success might be opposites, or they might be a non-linear progression.

English teaches us to ask about the unmeasurable, to guess, to adjust to the unknowable or the only-partially-assessable.

And it teaches us about commas so we don’t accidentally threaten to eat grandma, when we mean to invite her to dinner.

Plutarch, a very old, very dead, very smart man, wrote, “The correct analogy for the mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting – no more – and then it motivates one toward originality and instills the desire for truth.” English, along with many other fields, is important, because it encourages kindling.

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Flash Fiction: The Old Halls (391 words)

Kadelyn’s father worked in the largest rooms, in the oldest parts of the palace. It had been a castle once. The outer walls had been torn down a long time ago. Only one tower was left. Porches and paths and stairs had been stuck around the outsides. Other buildings had sprung up, leaned in, and towered over. But here, in these halls, it still felt like the bastion of defense.

They echoed. Too large for the simple sounds, she could heard shouts and claps and thundercracks come crisply back to her ears, but every voice resonated a little more. High voices like her mothers almost sang between these walls. Low ones like her father’s tapped skin on their way to the ear. The day she first spoke in those halls, and felt her voice spin as a mix of the two, was the first time she thought she’d ever heard herself.

Her brother, Brance used to run the length of them, after dark, after they should have both been asleep behind their locked doors. But he crept out of his bed, dragged her from hers, and ran from one end to the other, faster, faster, until his lungs forced him to slow enough to pull in a full breath. She always hung back, shoulder pressed to a door frame, whispering for him to come back. But when he put his hand in hers and grinned and demanded she come in, she couldn’t argue: these halls were built for motion. In daylight, the feeling stayed, and even walking felt like winning a race.

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Legal Theft Flash Fiction: Sharp Smile (472 words)

If it was still in fashion to name blades, Briditte was pretty sure Hanna would have named her sword Lady Sparkle. Or something worse.

It was a good sword, just a little leaner than Briditte liked in her own hand. It had a delicate curve, a sharp edge, and a soft gleam that made it frightening in the dark. When it came down, it gave a sound like a sweet singer reaching for a note almost beyond hearing. It looked like a silver feather that had developed too large an attitude to stay on the bird. Briditte liked a blade that might have been a tree-trunk club in a past life, but there was nothing wrong with Hanna’s.

Until she saw it draped across Hanna’s knees, lying like a river of steel that knew it exactly how pretty it was, glittering in the sunlight.

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Legal Theft Flash Fiction: Still Here (881 words)

There were worse places to be stuck. Off the top of her head, Agata could list five other prisons, a few run-down homes where she had spent a night or two, and at least six of the circles of hell…

As prisons went, it was clean. Either they had few enough prisoners that any old dirt had faded to dust a long time ago, or they actually bothered to scrub them out. The walls were stone, not wood, and the cell was divided from the hall by a series of sturdy iron bars that bit into both floor and ceiling. Windows spilled yellow-white light across everything but a few corners. The stones gleamed gray-blue in contrast, worn to a shine in twisting pathways where too many people had walked over the years. The bars kept the air sweeping in and out, and the whole thing smelled hollow as an open field, instead of wet and close as a sewer.

It was a little too cold – and Agata couldn’t help feeling the restriction of the locks and steel – but it was actually quite nice. She was moving up in the world.

If it wasn’t haunted, she might actually enjoy her two weeks off in the quiet little room.

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Wednesday Serial: Farther Part XXVIII

EOIN

As far as Eoin was concerned, keeping an eye on a wandering crowd of two hundred people, was about the same as watching over a toddler. The crowd weaved back and forth, teetered, and generally did all the things that a grown child would never think to do. It babbled nonsense, testing the sound of its own voice, and living in its own little world. It stopped and started, fell backward and fell forward, as if it were still learning the use of its feet. Sometimes, it scrunched together, collided with itself, as if it had not yet figured out that it was all one piece.

Sitting on the hill, Eoin watched, the dark body of his horse tucked into the shadow of the hill to keep him out of sight. He would have preferred to stay in the sunlight, soak in the warmth where he could, but he’d agreed with Tiernan when he said it was better to keep hidden. And somehow, it was more entertaining, imagining himself a spy for children.

Beside him, Danta leaned back in his saddle. The leather creaked, as if it had been still too long. Eoin glanced over and Danta gave him a bored, unimpressed look. Some days, Eoin thought that he was barely more than a toddler too, the way he ran from one place to another. He couldn’t have realized how much sitting this patrol would involve, or he wouldn’t have volunteered.

“Who do you think they are?” Danta asked.

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