Legal Theft Flash Fiction: Armed and Armored (422 words)

“You won’t be leaving this town alive.”

Finishing her next step, Jennika came to a slow stop, and made an even slower turn back to look down at the man. As far as threats went, it wasn’t very articulate. It wasn’t at all clever, cutting, or funny. And it sounded especially unreliable. It was difficult to be impressed.

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Wednesday Serial: Farther Part LXXXV

Tiernan fire_handTIERNAN

The first night in the mountain pass was already chillier than the previous night spent down in the plains. The air felt a little lighter on their faces and the ground was harder under their sleeping mats, but there were more of them as well. With nearly five hundred climbing the slope and bedding down under the black sky, there were enough fires burning to keep everyone warm. With so many of them, the camp grew quiet after dark, but never turned under into silence. Whoever held the watch could hear one or two people behind him that weren’t ready for sleep, or who were done with it for now.

It took twenty-three days to come out on the other side of the mountains, and no one complained for the unspoken press that kept their feet moving.

Tiernan had never seen so many move so smoothly.

Watching Deorsa with her troops, he knew it was mostly her doing. She liked to joke with them, liked to trade conversations whip-crack quick, smart and bright and easy. There wasn’t time to complain around her. She didn’t have the energy to waste on it when she could be smiling and giving the man beside her an elbow-nudge over the way he’d nearly fallen off his horse at the sight of a frilled lizard. She gave her orders like an older sister. Everyone around her followed as if she had eloquently convinced them of her purpose, not shouted five words over her shoulder with a grin.

But he only needed to look at the faces of his eighty to know why they moved so quickly. If it had been possible, their wills would have grown them wings.

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Flash Fiction: Deep, Warm and Heavy (535 words)

Treas could only assume that the Clan Lord had imprisoned a player. This was a prestigious wing of the prison. She had no doubt any number of the high-born residents had the talent for the piano, harp, or guitar. She just didn’t believe any one but a professional player would bother to turn her half-hearted kicks at the iron-striped door into the drum beat of Lord Tiern’s Hope and Threat.

Treas hadn’t even intended to give a rhythm to her kicks. It was an empty room, and her only options were to bang on the door and annoy the guards that brought her meals, or sit meekly in the corner until she became one of the stones in the wall. It wasn’t much of a choice. Not that she did a good job of annoying anyone but herself.

Boredom must have made it a rhythm, steady as the breath coming in and out of her lungs. Or nothing had, and the player in the next cell over decided to fit the melody around it as best he could and she made the rhythm fit afterward.

She couldn’t decide if that mattered. The song was a gift from somewhere either way.

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Flash Fiction: Got a Problem (477 words)

Jasen took a single step into his kitchen and stopped. He had not expected to find Jennika standing by his small square table, but seeing her there, he couldn’t muster any surprise to see her pocketing something off the sideboard. He wasn’t sure what it was, wasn’t even entirely sure that she had picked it up or flicked her fingers into the fold of her jacket. Still, he thought he saw her, so he knew she’d done something.

“If you take that, I will hunt you down,” he said.

She looked at him steadily, blinked once, and let her eyebrows drift upward.

“I will hunt you down,” Jasen repeated. He took another step into the room. “With horses, or hounds, or mountain lions, or crocodiles, or whatever it takes to track a little slithering weasel like you.”

She cocked her head to one side, very careful not to move otherwise. “Do crocodiles have a good sense of smell?”

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Flash Fiction: Last Lesson (2170 words)

The sun was coming down, painting the tangle of sandstone rooms at the top of the hill in deep orange. The shadows beside the open archways lost their sharp lines, fading to a dull gray in preparation to sink into the clear coming darkness. Then they disappeared onto clean white stone at the next flash of fire off Toar’s hands.

The air was thick and warm with energy. It dragged across his skin as the breeze threaded through the practice hall and dropped into the open air over the cliff outside. Waves hissed at the bottom, and the air hissed in echo inside the room every time Toar spread his hands. On the other side of the room, Jaera stood calmly, dark hair knotted up in the heat. Her hand hung open at her sides, and she rubbed her thumb and middle finger around each other as if there was something more between them than skin.

Shaking his hands slightly, Toar rolled his shoulders back, and spilled another layer of thin energy into the air. The sheet of ice under the skin of his shoulders and arms grew thicker, and heat whispered through his fingers. He bare felt it leave his palms, and there was barely a sheen in the air. He took on breath, then a second, letting it build up around him. Then he shoved heat out of his hand. It crackled, snapped out brilliant blue light that curled like smoke. The entire wall of energy in front of him exploded into light. Pushing his hands in front of him, he shoved the energy forward, tumbling down the length of the room.

It roared, rolled, ran, and slid smoothly off a slanted invisible wall in front of Jaera.

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Wednesday Serial: Farther Part XL

Seryn fire_hand

SERYN

Aled slid back into camp. It was a good slide, Seryn thought. He took a meandering route that looped around and in and around the camp’s edge, a sewing needle working stitches into the frayed edges of the sleeping men and women. It was much the same path she might have taken a few days ago, trying to mask her patrol around the edges. His problem was that there were so few people still wandering awake to hide between, he was meant to be asleep himself, and he was coming from the wrong direction. She could watch him from a hundred yards away, and every step he took was in trained sneak.

He was covering something, and she had an absurd, sickening idea what it was.

But she smiled when he came close. “You’re still on your feet?” she asked lightly.

She was starting to feel a little hazy herself and the others had all laid out behind her on top of their bedrolls in their clothes. Even Tomi and Rhian, who had worn smiles wide enough to make the moon jealous, moved like the morning had made them lighter while it weighted the rest of them, and had chattered with each other for almost an hour, had finally shut their eyes and started to breathe in and out, clean and even.

Aled shrugged. “Still on adrenaline, I guess.”

Seryn felt the lie like a cat flicking its tail at her on a walk-by, familiar, but still enough to make her flinch. She’d told the same lie earlier, though she knew they weren’t covering the same thing. He was yawning, shuffling on his feet, more than just hazy.

“Yeah,” she said. She looked down for a minute, like she was tired too, but it let her resettle her smile before she looked at him again. “Me too.”

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Flash Fiction: Promise, Threat, Ditch (856 words)

It was difficult to sneak into Toar’s yard. He’d long ago abandoned any thought of making it pretty, trimming it down to plain grass and a looping stone walkway left over from where someone had thought to wander in a garden. There was a center stone circle, and red stone walls higher than a man’s head, and between the two, voices and footsteps tended to carry a whispering echo. He had one tree in the back corner, a thick-headed, pliable thing that cast sweet shade, but wouldn’t harbor anyone trying to climb over the wall in its branches.

But occasionally, Jaera realized, its breezy rustle was enough to cover the squeak of the back gate.

She jumped, catching a sharp breath, when Zain appeared beside her on the back steps.

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Flash Fiction: Nature of a Promise (488 words)

Dainna was packing, folding her clothes like it was just laundry day, just another chore to be done. Her bag sat on her bed, opened lazily. But the table beside her bed was clear, all her little precious things that usually went reverently untouched stowed away already. Her walls her bare. Her bed was made with all the blankets and pillows usually stowed in the back of her closet. Ren stopped in her doorway, pushed back by the uncomfortable feeling that she’s already abandoned the room.

“You don’t have to go,” he said.

She flicked her eyes toward him between stacking folded shirts into her bag. “Yes, I do,” she said, and she smiled as she said it, like he’d made a joke.

“No, you don’t,” he said.

“I made a promise,” Dainna said. “A long time ago. When he called for my help, I would go.” She shook her bag once, to settle what was already inside. Then she looked at Ren, apologetic. “He called…”

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Flash Fiction: Just One Page (509 words)

Teiden approached the table like he was sneaking up on a small animal, each step careful and slow, and he slid a slim book across the table to Jace. Jace looked at it without turning his head from the thick tome in front of him, then watched Teiden slide slowly into the chair across from him.

Teiden watched him, with a smile that was not safe.

“What?” Jace asked.

Teiden nodded toward the book. “Go ahead.”

Jace looked at him, purposely keeping the blank questioning look on his face. Otherwise, he would have had to strangle Teiden.

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Do Over Flash Fiction: Spice and Peppermint (1235 words)

Tamir didn’t have a green thumb, but she could follow instructions. Leave the plants with the tall blue blooms and the plants with the wide silky leaves. Don’t touch the plants with the straight stalks, because they hurt. Tear out anything with little yellow flowers, any low tiny-leaved ramblers, or anything vining on the ground. Water the low plants every day, or they’ll die. Never water the tall wide-faced flowers, or they’ll die. It wasn’t rough work, it paid enough to fill her stomach and touch her pocket, and most of it made sense.

Except for the careful instructions about the vines along the south wall of the garden. All Tamir wanted to do was rip them out by the roots, but they had to be watered each morning, then checked to be sure no insect or animal had burrowed inside. They were woven so tightly they hid the stones behind them and choked out any interloping vegetation, so at least she didn’t need to pay them that attention, but she didn’t want to touch them at all. They were too rich a green, and they twisted together like they were teaching themselves to braid. The leaves were pretty, heart-shaped and thick. White flowers tumbled down in lines, like only a few vines bothered to decorate themselves, but it made them look like art. But the smell of them was like her least favorite spice.

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