Wednesday Serial: Farther Part CXIII

Anie fire_hand

ANIE

In the twilight, Lord Tiernan’s camp moved languidly. The neatness of the tent lines gently hedged in the growing shadows from cook fires and torches. Canvas rustled, flaps opening and closing. Charcoal smoke drifted lazily. Ahead of Anie, one of the soldiers leading them encouraged them to keep moving, but her tone was unhurried. The whole crowd of them leaned lightly into their steps, looking around, talking quietly. Anie watched the men and women drifting between their tents, breathed in deep to catch the warmth of venison and broth boiling for supper.

And Momma leaned over one of the cookpots, long hair tied back with a single string, falling over one shoulder.

Anie stopped just where she was.

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Legal Theft Flash Fiction: Permanent (1524 words)

Kadelyn knocked on the door, but wasn’t sure her polite tapping would be heard over the conversation and motion inside. Her little sister, Ineli was moving through the rooms at a speed that was unusual for her, but still easy-going for most. Cloth rustled, drawers opened and closed, lids creaked open or clicked shut, and Ineli chattered happily with her bodyguard, his deep voice more often dominating the conversation than hers. The door muffled their voices just enough that Kadelyn could amiably decide not to hear what they were saying, and she knocked a second time.

The conversation didn’t stop when Ineli moved to the door, and the girl was laughing when she opened it.

“Hello, Kadie,” she said. She dipped a curtsy out of habit, and held onto an easy, bright smile. Behind her, the room was warm and yellow from the light spilling in through the open windows. The breeze touched a cool hand to everything it could flick or flip, but most of the room and its comfortable circle of padded chairs seemed weighted down with clothing and books. Dresses and scarves and stacks of books striped the couch, the padded chairs, and the floor in deep, rich colors.

Kadelyn smiled back at Ineli without thought, glancing over the disarray. “Are you packing or just redecorating?” she asked.

Ineli’s smile broke into a grin.

“Packing,” she said. “I promise.”

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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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Wednesday Serial: Farther Part XXXV

Anie fire_hand

ANIE

Darien shook Anie awake. She’d been dreaming about smoke, and she woke coughing, before she realized it was really there. It lightened the sky, reflecting angry red.

“Get up,” Darien said. “Grab your things. Get them in the cart.”

Everyone was running. Thea was holding the horse’s head as it danced on the grass. Wesson was grabbing his things off the ground, tossing them into the cart. Mel was just rolling out of her bed, but already scrambling to put it together after her. The fire crackled, too big, too bright, too hot. Shadows criss-crossed in front of it. People shouted.

“What’s going on?” Anie asked.

Chas caught her from behind as he ran past, dragging her up to her feet. “We don’t know,” he whispered, and then he was gone, running.

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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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Wednesday Serial: Farther Part XVIII

Anie fire_hand

ANIE

It took Thea a long moment to settle, to rest back against her elbow and glance around the room. She dragged her hair back from her face. Her fingers caught, and she spent a moment freeing them. Mel stayed so still, Anie almost laughed, knowing that it was the only way she could keep from bouncing on her toes.

“What are you doing?” Thea asked, finally, voice low with sleep.

Mel grinned. “What you really want to do,” she whispered.

“Go back to bed,” Thea said.

“Oh, but then I’d smear my facepaint,” Mel said. “And ruin all my plans for the evening.”

“Da won’t–” Thea began.

“Oh, like we haven’t done things without Da’s permission before.”

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Wednesday Serial: Farther Part XVII

Anie fire_hand

ANIE

Thea left Anie at home the next morning. The walls creaked in the quiet, and she did her chores as quickly as she could. She brought in water, and sand-scrubbed the floor by the back door to get rid of last night’s mud. She hung the blankets in the window to air them out, and took the refuse down to the bins at the end of the quarter, then stopped to pay up the cob for next week’s water barrel. Running back to the house, she ran straight up the stairs, grabbed a book off her table, and kept running until she jumped up onto Momma’s bed.

Momma rolled over when she felt Anie on the mattress. She tucked her arm around her daughter and put her head back on the pillow. “Read aloud?” she asked quietly.

Anie pulled her book open at the bookmark, and started where they’d left off a few days before, running her finger under each sentence as she went.

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Wednesday Serial: Farther Part XVI

Anie fire_hand

ANIE

Anie was surprised when Mel didn’t say another word about her secret. Not that day, not the next, not the day after. She smiled at Anie in her usual way, chattered and joked and looked at Thea tolerantly when the older girl started to chide her into calm. She worked with Da in the smith, all day, came home and propped her feet in a chair until Thea called for her to help cook, stayed up into the dark, and rolled out of bed late the next morning. As usual.

Anie watched her, waiting to see the hint that Mel was avoiding her, or watching her too, or altered by the weight of what she knew. Mel continued to waltz through her life, like she’d forgotten, like there was no need to remember.

“Does it bother you?” Thea asked, when Anie pointed it out to her.

Anie set the laundry basket she was hauling down on a chair. It was half as big as she was, and the serious tone in Thea’s voice told her this was a conversation that needed attention. She considered it. “I don’t think so,” she said. “It’s just strange.”

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Wednesday Serial: Farther (Part II)

Anie fire_hand

ANIE

Da was already downstairs by the time Anie pried herself away from the blankets.

He stood by the door, holding the last bites of his breakfast, keeping the quiet of the morning air. Dressed in his heavy leathers, he watched Thea move around the kitchen, while the fire started to press warmth into the room, and glanced over his shoulder at the front door from time to time. Anie thought there was a shadow there that told him when it was time to leave, but she’d never marked it for herself.

She scooted past him, running on her toes to keep the soles of her house shoes off the cold floor as much as possible, and slid in beside the hearth. She waited until she felt heat sink through the thick fabric of her dress before she uncurled her fingers from her sleeves.

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