Flash Fiction: New Fashions (1184 words)

Cerestine’s kitchen was too large for just her. Standing in front of one of the long work tables, she rolled dough into a thin sheet, flour spread in a wide circle around her while three feet of table on either end were still shining clean. Her brown hair was swept back and knotted elegantly at the back of her head. The streaks of silver at her temples ornamented either side of her head and threaded through the twists like ribbons. Her apron covered her dark, embroidered skirt, while she left her bleached white shirt bare. The fine flour didn’t even show against it, though it coated her hands from fingertip to wrist and halfway up her arms. The oven behind her spread heat down the length of the room, the pit large enough to house a dozen large loaves, but she worked alone, rolling only one.

The whole house was too large for her. Fifty rooms spread through three floors, and her every step echoed inside them, alone.

Loris wavered on the doorstep, unsure if the older woman knew she was there, or how she should properly announce herself if she didn’t. Cerestine was cutting her flattened dough into strips, still connected at one end. Her head was bent, and when she was finished with the knife, she threw it carelessly to one side, and didn’t look up as she began to braid the pieces together.

“My lady?” Loris began, hesitantly, sure that Cerestine would look up in shock no matter how gently she spoke.

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Flash Fiction: Hold On Tight (479 words)

The cliff edge was barely wide enough to fit them all shoulder to shoulder. Cerena tucked herself against Vardan’s side, her arm tucked in front of his, and Taben and Leonne held hands, just for space. Damion turned sideways, one foot braced against a large stone, and he leaned out, looking at the dark blue water beneath them. Aymee was just behind him, catching herself on his hand, and looking down too. Behind them, they had each left a bundle of their jackets and boots and socks and jewelry, and left them weighted down with a stone. They stood on the edge in breeches and shirts, bare toes rattling in the loose stone.

“We’re not doing this,” Leonne said, as if she couldn’t believe the last mile she’d hiked to reach here.

Cerena gave her a too-wide, nervous smile.

Aymee just looked at her over Damion’s shoulder and nodded. “Oh, yes, we are,” she said.

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Flash Fiction: Pockets (1043 words)

The main hall was full, edged with the gauze and frill of the vendor’s canopies. They hung out their wares, the best of glitter and gleam, while men and women wove through the center, shining in their silk and leather, draped in their long jackets or thick skirts, tapping rich heels against the flagstones. The windows had been flung wide, letting the breeze run its cool fingers over everything. At one end, the great double doors had been flung wide as well, along with the smaller doors to either side, and people passed in and out as they pleased, escaping to quieter air, or running in for the festivities. At the other end, the court thrones and podiums and judges seats had been cleared away. A band of seven played just beneath the dais, and unlike in the city markets, not a single vendor shouted to be heard above them.

No one shouted, though here and there, someone laughed a little too loudly. Coins clinked, but no one haggled. Children ran around the room, and their parents called for them slow down, but never to stay close. Everywhere, the party whirled on, under its thin market skin.

Leonne watched it all out of the corner of her eye, most of her attention focused on Kadelyn sitting on the floor a few feet away.

The little girl had plopped herself down after she took a few teetering steps, bored with the attempt to walk. Her father, Damion had laughed, scooped her up, kissed her. She giggled at the feel of his beard, at the way he swung her almost upside down, then grinned at him when he pulled her upright and smoothed her skirt back down. He set her on a blanket on top of the dais after a moment, and she stayed just there. Wide eyed, she looked around at every shifting color, every passing person, and the gleam off the belled brass instrument straight below her.

When her twin, Brance tottered past her, back and forth, back and forth, running between his mother’s knees and his father’s, Kadelyn spared him the closest thing to a glare that a one-year-old could gather. There were very few things she knew yet, but she knew he was a show-off.

Leonne smiled.

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Flash Fiction: Returns (739 words)

Aymee went very still when Vardan entered the hall. There were yards between them, but she went skeleton-stiff, fleshless at the sight of him. Vardan slowed, hovered in the doorway for half a moment. He hadn’t expect any kind of fear when he arrived. He looked down, counting out the floor stones between them. Slowly, he approached.

Her hands knotted in her skirts, and the rich, blue cloth whispered in complaint.

At a respectful distance, Vardan stopped. It felt strange. Once, he would have walked right up beside her, shoulders almost touching. He might have just smiled, and it would have been enough of a greeting for them. Now, he looked down again, bowed low. “My lady,” he said.

Aymee still didn’t move. “Vardan?” she whispered. “How are you here?”

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Flash Fiction: Posture (894 words)

Aymee’s headache had settled in again.

It was not a sharp thing, threatening to crack her skull in two, or one of the fierce rumbling ones that reminded her that her skull had once been a half-dozen joined plates and attempted to shake them apart. It was simply dull. It ached. It sat still behind her ears and quietly convinced her that she was tired.

She sat in her chair, the city’s accounts in front of her, and she wore out her work slowly. Spine straight, she rested the weight of her skull on the tips of her fingers, and quietly tried to counter the headache with the gentle suggestion that it might not exist.

“Are you all right, my lady?” her bodyguard asked, standing at the wall behind her. She shifted at her post, but Aymee didn’t move at all.

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Legal Theft Flash Fiction: Still Breathing (798 words)

“I think he’s waiting for you.” Looking out the window, Aymee leaned her head to one side to see around the lead lattice and catch Damion’s slow pace beside the green square. Rising behind him, the interlocking stairs and porches and porticos were sprinkled with lazy walkers. But they came and went, or relaxed in the benches around the square. He had stayed on his feet, and stayed in the square for the last half hour.

Leonne didn’t lift her head from the short stack of reports in front of her. “He can do what he likes,” she said. “We have other things that need our attention.”

Aymee looked back, to see her, eyebrows raised, nodding pointedly toward the chair opposite her. Sighing, and smiling, she set her back against the window ledge and crossed her arms. “You work too much,” she said.

“You work too much,” Leonne said, reflecting the smile right back to her. “I think this is all fun. I play too much.”

Aymee laughed at her.

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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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