Flash Fiction: Smarter (367 words)

Zain had been on board the Zealot for thirty days, and he still had not figured out what was so magnificent about the ship.

It was large. He could give it that.

It had three masts, each one a massive spire meant for climbing, with lines and rigs enough to confuse and amuse. He’d gotten lost the first time he’d tried to reach the top, and it was the first time he realized that lost could mean seeing exactly where he wanted to be and having no idea how to get there. It was amazing.

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Wednesday Serial: Farther Part LXI

Tiernan fire_handTIERNAN

Eoin’s easy, wandering stride lengthened. He turned his shoulders to thread through the crowd, but he faced directly forward, focused on his destination, or directly backward, checking to make sure that Tiernan had stayed close. The rest of the street held onto its noise and nature. No one looked at the two of them on their sudden direct path more than they had a few moments before. Tiernan nodded toward the men and women who met his eye and stayed behind Eoin’s shoulder.

His brother turned to the right side of the street after a few more yards, and threaded his way there, right under the walls and windows of the buildings for a dozen more strides. Then, he turned and ducked into the hollow between two stone walls, sheltered by a gabled roofing leading up to a thin wooden door. The building behind it, seemed to lean forward over the two on either side in a neighborly way, as if it only wanted a better view of the street. It had a pointed roof, trimmed, and scrubbed bright.

“Are you feeling all right?” Tiernan asked.

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Flash Fiction: Aimless Midnight (693 words)

Terius looked at Zain, and Zain looked at Terius, and for half a moment Zain imagined what it might be like to actually oppose him, to set one will against the other, feel the grating, and see which of them actually could stand over the other. And then he slid into a grin, and he half-turned away before it spread into a laugh, because the smile tasted better, and in the dark, so long after dinner, he wasn’t hungry for anything but sweetness. Because this wasn’t anything so important to make a fight out of. And because it was a better game, to see if he could talk his cousin around to agreeing.

Terius shook his head, Zain’s smile breaking the silence that had started to build better than a word. “This is the worst idea you’ve ever had,” Terius said.

Zain glanced sideways to Jaera. She bounced a little on her toes, shoulders pulled forward to keep her jacket close, hands shoved into her pockets. If she thought anything of Zain’s suggestion, it was lost beyond her opinion of the cold sinking into her bones. She flicked her eyes up after a moment, realizing that Zain was looking to her, and then just shook her head a little. Still, no disagreement, just a gentle nudge that she didn’t see any reason for him to be turning toward her. Then she turned her attention back to the street, and the street lights, and the quiet clatter that echoed in from the next street over. Her breath puffed out in little gray clouds that caught in the lamps, and faded in an instant. She shoved her hands down into her pockets.

“I think,” Zain said lazily. He swung his eyes back to meet Terius’ gaze. “Your memory is failing you a bit.”

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Flash Fiction: Happy (1484 words)

The kid reminded Zain of Terius. It was an odd thing to think, looking at him from behind as they snuck down the stairs, watching Silas’ curly dirty blonde hair bounce with each quiet jump down the steps, and feeling at exactly the same time as if he were looking at himself through a time-twisted mirror. But Zain thought it just the same.

Silas continued to sneak down the steps, sure of his way around the house. He darted to one side or the other to avoid creaking steps, the same way that Zain might in the mansion he himself had been raised in for the last decade. Where Zain might have looked back and grinned at the chance to show off, Silas stayed facing forward, serious about his sneaking.

He was quiet, too, Zain realized. Not hushed to hide himself as they reached the end of the stairs, but actually quiet, as if he might not have run through the house all that differently had they not been trying to make it to the front of the house without their mother or father catching sight of them.

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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: Call the Constable (607 words)

The house looked about the way it always did: plain, weathered wood, with windows that were the only square thing in the whole face. It was still too tall, seeming to lean back against the hill, like a man too large for the chair he’d been given. The other homes on the row hunkered low enough on their two stories, and looked sideways at the leaning thing, a stranger wandered in from a strange land that they couldn’t quite get used to.

Giada craned her head back too, measuring it. The neighbors had always said that Home would look smaller as she grew up. But she’d gotten plenty tall in the last few years, and the house still looked like a gangly giant.

Stepping up to the door, she knocked and flipped her bag down to the ground to wait.

Elain opened the door, blonde hair pulled into a loose braid. She looked the way she always did, calm, and happy, and carelessly put into perfect order. Her eyes widened a little, and she paused in the doorway.

“Surprise,” Giada said, and shrugged.

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Legal Theft Flash Fiction: Caught (563 words)

His hair sort of glowed in the dark. It was just that blond. Zain thought it, and instantly said it out loud, as usually happened when struck so perfectly with consciousness.

Terius barely moved, except to pull his eyebrows together in the firmest confusion he ever wore.

Jaera’s eyes widened, just a little, in question. “Yes,” she said lowly. “Terius’ hair glows a little bit.”

And Zain supposed that she would be the one to know, having walked so many times with him, too late at night, after stealing too many hours together.

It shouldn’t have been any surprise. Zain and Terius had known each other since the first days that they were learning how to walk, and Zain had always been accused of seeing too much, never nothing at all. They were cousins, the two of them, and Zain had blond hair too. Zain’s father had blond hair. Zain’s brothers – all seven of them – had hair that was either blond by birth, or quickly corrected itself to blond after a few days under the open sun. Terius’ father was blond, too, in that ruddy way that nearly hid the gray fading into his hairline.

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Flash Fiction: Too Stupid (536 words)

It took a while for Taben to answer the door. Vardan listened to him shuffle across the floor inside for a long time before the door creaked open and his friend looked out with one shoulder braced against the frame. He looked pale, but his cheeks were flushed. His hair was carefully combed, and held in place around his forehead with a thin layer of sweat. He wore his coat, buttoned all the way to his chin, sleeves dragged down to his hands. If he had just hiked a frozen desert, it would have looked perfectly natural.

All he’d done was walk ten feet from his bedroom to the front door of his suite.

“You look like crap,” Vardan told him.

Taben blinked. It took him an extra second to focus on Vardan’s face, or to register the comment, or maybe just to come up with the proper response. “You look like the half-breed son of a horse and a monkey’s butt,” he said. “I try not to mention it.”

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Flash Fiction: Waking the Rest of Them (782 words)

Lord Brance was singing. Loudly.

It was close to midnight, but other than the time, there was nothing unpleasant about it. Each note was hit in his clear baritone. Each chord he struck on the guitar was simple, light-fingered and quick. He sat easy, with his broad shoulders curled over the body of the instrument and his dark hair dropped carelessly into his eyes. The open square echoed his voice, carrying it high through the balconies, stairways and open windows of the layers of rooms. He might have picked the night and the square and the song for his own pleasure, except for the way he tilted his head up to face the windows, and the smile on his face which could only belong to a madman or a lover.

Aline crossed her arms as she leaned against the rail of her balcony, half to keep her dressing gown closed, half to tuck her hands into the crook of her elbows for warmth. The night air combed cold, tentative fingers through the pillars and rustled her hair around her ears. She smiled down at Brance, too confused to do anything else.

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Flash Fiction: First and Second Edicts of a King (362 words)

The dead bird sat on Brance’s pillow, head tilted at an angle that made him believe that it was even less pleased to be there than he was to have it. The feathers around its neck were ruffled in all directions, one wing was bent and half open beneath it. A trail of loose feathers wandered across the rest of the bed. Kelb sat between the twisted blankets, nose on his paws, looking proudly at Brance.

Brance took a deep breath, half-smiling. “I don’t want that,” he said.

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