Flash Fiction: Raised Bronze (849 words)

All his life, Taavi had been dully aware that the Captain was always the last to leave the ship. It should not have come as a surprise to him that Erya’s promotion would mean that he could no longer meet her on the docks in the morning, as he had when she was a little cabin bird. He could not find her for a late lunch like when she was a full member of the crew, could not even share dinner with her as he had when she was an officer. Erya arrived home only after the sun had set, having registered with the portmaster, inspected the ship, dismissed the crew, contacted the banks to reserve coinage for the payroll, arranged the cargo dispatch, finalized the logs, reported to the ship’s owner, and finally, packed up her own things in the dark.

She came through the doors with her shoulders rounded, but smiling as if she’d caught a falling star in her pocket.

“Hello, Da,” she said.

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Flash Fiction: Check Twice (1023 words)

A hand locked around Heydi’s wrist, really locked, with the fingers hooked over her narrow wrist bones and thumb perfectly set in the groove between her hand and her arm. It hurt a little, but the first thing she did was stare at it.

She was very sure that the guards had not seen her, and very sure that this was not any of the five women and four men that she had just robbed of their purses. She didn’t know who it was, or why they cared.

She started to tilt her head back – all the way back – to get a look at his face. Then she realized it didn’t matter who it was, or why he had grabbed her. It hurt, and no one friendly would hurt her.

Heydi let her feet drop out from under her, twisting her whole body around her arm, twisting herself toward his thumb. Jerdan had taught her to do it, to hang all her weight off her arm, and practiced with her until she knew the exact instant that the man’s hold would break. She was too small to break it any other way.

She felt the pop of his thumb losing its hold, and the sharp slide of the rest of his fingers coming free. The man swore. She was already catching herself on her toes and running in the other direction.

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Flash Fiction: Heart of Winter (257 words)

The heat of the forge fires met Ashlynn outside the door. The snow and ice that stuck to the paving stones ten steps away turned to slush at the wall and slicked the doorstep. The icy rush of the afternoon breeze seemed to shift and slow, edged out by the drift of warm air from inside. Her numb cheeks prickled and she unburied her hands from the pocket of her coat to help them warm up faster.

Pulling the latch down, Ashlynn opened the door. Heat rolled out in a wave. She pulled her coat open at her neck with her free hand, stepped inside and had the rest of it undone before the door clapped shut behind her. She dropped it off her shoulders and was already reaching to loosen her scarf and jacket as she hung it up. She took off her gloves, her hat, her scarf, her jacket, smiling at the others as they looked up from the fires and the anvils. Then she loosened her shirt around the neck, and rolled her sleeves up to her elbows. Already, she was sweating.

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Flash Fiction: Open Windows Part I (1007 words)

The first step in Zain’s master plan for the evening was to open a window.

It was a large window, set just to the left of the musicians, and he knew there was no way to do it without gathering attention. He paused to talk to the girl on the violin in between songs, chatted until the moment she had to put bow to string again, then walked straight to the window as if he were doing her a favor. The hall was warm from the dancing, but not uncomfortably so, and the drifting breeze from the window cooled almost nothing. Still, she flashed him a smile after he swung the window open, probably just pleasantly surprised to realize he was still lingering nearby, but from a distance, he thought it might be mistaken for gratitude.

It didn’t stop one of the servers from narrowing his eyes as he passed, or Selwyn from going suddenly still at the other end of the hall.

Shoving his hands in his pocket, Zain smiled back at the violinist and wandered back into the center of the hall. Because, for once, step two was not climbing out the window.

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Eight Things That Shouldn’t Disappear

Tomorrow, I will be helping my little sister, Neekers move into her dorm room. It seemed like it would be a long time in coming. In some ways, it has been. In other ways, it’s been like sleeping and finding that someone ran off with the clock and the calendar.

But before I let the thieves run too far, there are a few things that need to be said. Really, they need to be written down, so that they don’t disappear somewhere.

Neekers:

1. I’m the one who carried you into the house the day that we brought you home from the hospital. I don’t know why Mom and Dad let me. I was seven-almost-eight and I had already skinned every elbow and knee I owned walking down that same sidewalk. They had a perfectly good eleven-year-old and a perfectly good fourteen-year-old, either one of which could have done the job. I sort of imagine myself grabbing you and bolting, like I’d gotten the last cookie from the cookie jar.

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Flash Fiction: Everything You’ve Got (711 words)

“So, Aunt Lyneth,” Zain said. “Did Terius tell you about the rabbit we found while we were gone?”

Terius paused, his hand on the deck in the middle of the little table to draw a card. Zain was calmly arranging the cards his hand, expression smooth, but Terius could see the small promise of a smile in it. Terius blinked at him.

Lyneth only lowered the cards in her hand and glanced between the two of them, curious at first, then suspicious at Terius’ silence.

“I don’t believe so,” she said.

“Really?” Zain seemed to drop his hands without a thought, but Terius noticed that his cards stayed hidden, close to his chest. He looked at Terius incredulously, then across the table at his uncle, Ryden. Ryden stared back at him warningly, and laid down a card. Immediately, Zain looked back to Lyneth.

“I can’t believe he didn’t tell you about that,” Zain said.

Raising an eyebrow, Lyneth met Terius’ eye as she picked up a card of her own.

“It…” Terius said.

Zain picked a card up from the table and put another down in its place. He waved to Terius expectantly, maybe telling him it was his turn, maybe telling him to continue.

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Wednesday Serial: Farther Part LXXXIII

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Anie tripped her way between the tables, ducking under elbows, and generally trying to keep behind people’s backs as she slipped through. She knew she hardly succeeded, but Aled, at least, didn’t seem to notice her until she was almost leaning over his shoulder.

Rhian was sweating. Pieces of her hair stuck to her forehead, but she was still pulling the blankets closer while she slept, as if she wanted them knit into her skin. She was shivering to. Anie’s smile slipped away as she watched her. She had never seen anyone after a bear attack before, but she knew what people looked like when they were sick. Rhian wasn’t really sleeping, wasn’t resting, she was aching with her eyes closed to pray thought away.

“You’re supposed to be getting lunch,” Aled said. He gave Anie a slow look and a small smile.

Anie returned the look, eyebrows bent together. “You’re supposed to be asleep,” she told him.

He raised an eyebrow.

“I know you were on watch last night,” Anie said. “And you’re on watch again tonight.”

“You’re very observant,” he said. If he hadn’t been so quiet, she would have said he was impressed. “Now tell me what I’ve been watching…” Aled turned back to Rhian before he had finished speaking. Anie wasn’t sure she was supposed to guess.

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Flash Fiction: Agreement (99 words)

“I’m ready for the day to be over,” Mena murmured. She curled over her knees, arms crossed and chin resting somewhere in the mess of wrists and knees and sleeves. She let out a low breath and it lifted her bangs off her cheek.

Dest smiled sideways at her. She had thrown her legs out in front of her and crossed her ankles while she leaned back on her hands. She was sprawled, but that wasn’t really much different from slumped.

“Lucky you,” Dest said. She nodded across the houses to the red, yellow, pink striped horizon. “The sun agrees.”

Legal Theft Flash Fiction: Around the Corner (483 words)

Blue suit jacket open and tie undone, he smiled at her.

“Are they gone?” she murmured and caught herself before she peeked over his shoulder into the next room. She already felt as if she had come to the kitchen to hide from the last late-night party guests. She had to bite back a smile at the ridiculousness of her urge to check around the corner for them, as if she were checking under the bed.

“I just packed Aunt Edie into the car myself,” he said. He squeezed her arms gently. “She wanted to stay to help you fold napkins or write place cards or something, but I saved you.”

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Legal Theft Flash Fiction: Annual Secrets (744 words)

Visiting her father was the only time she dressed down for a public event. She owned silks and brocades that she wore every day, and gowns sewn with glinting twists of beadwork from neckline to hem that would have been perfect for the holidays in her own home. She owned dresses that sang, and hummed, and whispered as she walked, and every one of them would have been too loud in her father’s halls. Even the dresses she had worn as a girl for the celebrations in his home would have drawn too many eyes.

She dressed as plainly as she could get away with on such an exalted day. Her blue dress turned dull silver if it caught the proper shine, though the evening’s yellow lamplight was turning it muddy gray. The neck was embroidered with a line of rolling waves, and the hem echoed the pattern in larger strokes. The skirt bunched stiffly in its gathers where it should have flowed, an expensive fabric made in the wrong pattern.

She looked properly decadent, just shy of real elegance. In the long hall, roiling with party-goers, no one looked at her twice.

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