A Case of the Mondays (Drabble)

Image from Pixabay.

I don’t by any means consider this one of my best pieces, but it made me giggle. Hopefully you catch the reference and giggle too.

~ Effy

A Case of the Mondays (Drabble)

Marty checked himself in the mirror, shouldering his bag. Another too short weekend. As the door closed behind him, the quiet lawn and street beyond lay distended before him.

Two blocks into his walk, he heard rummaging in an alleyway. A can clattered. Marty reached into the dark depths of his bag.

A groan proceeded the zombie’s appearance. It turned, shuffling forward.

Out came a machete. It sunk into the soft skull. A spray of gore fanned Marty’s face and front.

Three blocks later, Kate greeted him. “Looks like someone’s got…”

“Please don’t,” Marty groaned. He needed a new commute.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This story and all related material are the original works of Awaiting the Muse and Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti. All rights reserved.
Creative Commons License
Awaiting the Muse by Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Based on a work at https://awaitingthemuse.wordpress.com/.

Wild, Wild West (Drabble)

Image from Pixabay.

Since finishing the first draft of First Knight, I’ve been kind of all over the place on my writing. I’ve been brainstorming, plotting, and I’ve started a handle of short stories. None of those are near completion. So I put one of my random ideas to paper and it turned into this.

This is a drabble that might be worthy of a longer piece. 🙂

~ Effy

Wild, Wild West (Drabble)

“Okay, pardners,” Sheriff Bingham drawled, “This here town ain’t big enough for all of us. So either you move along or we’ll have a problem.” The sheriff and his men stood in a line, guns drawn, serious and silent.

The sun baked the dusty road and a wayward wind kicked a tumbleweed across the space between.

Sheriff Bingham clicked the hammer back. “What’ll it be?”

A growl echoed off the splintered building faces. Wide-eyed faces peered from within.

“Keep your women and children close, sheriff,” the alpha werewolf said. Then the pack turned and disappeared into the swirling yellow dust.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This story and all related material are the original works of Awaiting the Muse and Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti. All rights reserved.
Creative Commons License
Awaiting the Muse by Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Based on a work at https://awaitingthemuse.wordpress.com/.

#WriterProblems (Drabble)

Image from Pixabay.

Yes, I know I already posted.

This is my second short story for this week, to try and make up for the week I missed. This piece has actually been sitting in my notebook for a few weeks. I didn’t like the original ending and I couldn’t make it work. This ending came to me in the car earlier this week and I feel it works much better.

~ Effy

#WriterProblems (Drabble)

The day Richard turned thirty, he decided to stop trying to meet the perfect woman. Instead, he wrote her into his story. No more blind dates. No more doubling with friends. No more third wheel. No more lonely nights of Netflix with his dog, Sam.

No more disappointment.

Richard sat down with his laptop, in Starbucks of all places. He typed a new scene, a fight scene, with a woman strong both physically and mentally. She destroyed her enemies and then went to the king’s ball.

As she stepped off the page, she whispered, “You’re not quite what I imagined.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This story and all related material are the original works of Awaiting the Muse and Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti. All rights reserved.
Creative Commons License
Awaiting the Muse by Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Based on a work at https://awaitingthemuse.wordpress.com/.

Tiny Dreamer (Short Story)

Galaxy Blue by Glenn Farquhar

This is a piece I originally wrote as a fan fiction piece. It has been heavily edited from its original version (there’s was way too much passive voice originally) and adjusted to fit it into the world of Dadreon.

I’d like to eventually put all of my dragon pieces into a short story collection. I’m filling in some gaps for now and we’ll see where it goes.

Enjoy.

~ Effy

Tiny Dreamer

Awareness came in the dark.

Unchanging, it gave no measure of time between when she realized she existed and when she left the darkness. For now, all she knew was darkness. The darkness made her sleepy with its warmth. She slept a lot.

When she slept, she dreamt in colors.

Mostly, she dreamt in hues of blue, ranging from blue so light it was almost white to a deep blue that was close to black but not. The blue felt comforting, familiar. It felt almost like herself. She stayed near to the blue.

Some of the colors appeared in shades of red and green. Some were more white or more black. Some shimmered in shiny, reflective colors. They all felt similar to the blue, but not. She did not feel akin to the other colors like the blue.

The colors all hinted toward something greater, other sentient beings full of knowledge, but she could not figure out how to reach the colors to learn more.

Rather than fight or fuss, she instead let herself drift. Instinctively she knew when something important happened, she would know.

Occasionally muffled somethings would come to her, from elsewhere. With them they brought a sense of movement that was not her, nor her where. Since none of it affected her or changed the darkness that surrounded her, she forgot the distractions quickly. They hardly interrupted her sleep.

Then, all at once everything changed abruptly. Along with a subconscious feeling of change in her surroundings, it became warmer, too warm, stifling. The feeling woke her, and she became more aware of sounds and movement invading her surroundings.

Something was happening. She knew without knowing how.

It was time to leave.

A voice that spoke directly to her soul called to her.

For the first time since becoming aware, she felt anxious and hurried. She wanted to follow the voice, but she did not know where to find it or how to get there from here.

So she went in the first direction that seemed right.

Her path met resistance soon after. It extended in every direction–curving, smooth, unblemished. She panicked, her anxiety growing. How would she reach the voice? But the voice remained nearby and its presence calmed her. It continued to call to her.

She fought against the resistance.

With a sharp crack, the resistance gave away a little. The darkness that formed her surroundings tore open, and a small spot of light broke the darkness. It startled her sensitive eyes though they remained closed. The light was new and signified somewhere unknown, and that made it both fascinating and frightening.

The voice coaxing her onward in her mind mingled with a physical voice that uttered a surprised, happy noise. Somehow, she knew the voice within and the voice without to be the same. It did not really make sense to her, but only instincts guided her now.

Pushing the rest of the way through the tear proved harder than she expected and took what seemed a very long time even after all her timeless waiting. She eagerly sought the place of the voice calling to her. She longed to end her solitude.

She squawked a note of displeasure at the resisting edge of her somewhere.

The voice came again–a low, soothing purr. She paused her struggle and cocked her head curiously. She hoped the comforting voice would speak again, although she did not know the words. The noise pleased her ears after the silence of the darkness.

Something unknown, something that was not the edges of her dark somewhere, brushed against her. It seemed to be encouraging her. She squawked again, this time softer.

Her struggle renewed; her resistance diminished. Her head and front limbs broke free and this made her think to search out the voice.

She opened her eyes.

The brightness of the new place struck her eyes and offended all her senses after being so long in the darkness. After much blinking and more noises of annoyance she focused on the source of the voice.

The creature before her reminded her of her dreams–a being of blue like the dream-beings which had been like her. Unlike the dream-beings, this creature could be focused on. This creature loomed almost close enough to touch and she realized the blue being was huge, god-like.

It watched her.

She squawked again. This time the noise tried to form a word, a word she had found in her dreams, though it had held no meaning for her in that previous timeless where.

“Odassa!” she cried.

The smaller colors had purred the word to the larger ones. It meant someone who protected, someone bigger, someone “family.” Unsure what all these new words meant, though they came to her easily, the images they created in her mind made her feel safe.

Her memories, her dreams were indeed larger than herself.

The creature that was not a dream-being and not from the darkness smiled. The smile showed a mouthful of sharp teeth, but she did not feel threatened. She realized it had understood. For when she cried out, fully in her mind had been a picture taken from her dreams. The large blue creature thought back to her with a word of confirmation, “Mother.” Now she saw the responding thought in the other’s mind–her embraced by the creature.

Then, it did just that, it brought her closer to itself. The being was warm. The warmth and closeness made her sleepy again. She had expended much energy escaping the darkness of her sleepy dream place.

Awkwardly, on limbs that had never supported her before, she left the remnants of former where. Its darkness now lay split wide open and it already felt removed from her. She felt no more attachment to the darkness, it held no more importance.

This creature, this mother, had become her focus now.

She climbed her mother’s closest limb–“foreclaw” came into her mind from it. Her muscles became steadier with each step. Then, she stepped into a cave-like area beneath her mother’s neck–”nest” came to her this time.

She added these to her growing knowledge.

A great yawn escaped her. The sleepiness won out over learning more. There would be time later. For now, she knew she was safe, every thought from her mother’s mind reinforced it.

She curled herself beneath her mother, pressing as much of her body against the warmth there as she could.

Then, she slept. Only now, the passage of time had become important.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This story and all related material are the original works of Awaiting the Muse and Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti. All rights reserved.
Creative Commons License
Awaiting the Muse by Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Based on a work at https://awaitingthemuse.wordpress.com/.

Necromancer (Short Story)

A Dungeons & Dragon black dragon.

Okay, first an apology. Last week my brain apparently needed a reboot. I’ve been progressively slowing down in my writing for several weeks. Work’s been busy and stressful at the height of our season. I’ve been coming home brain dead and going straight to bed. Last week, I wrote exactly zero words. No forward progress with my novel. No new short story. And that was after only the 100 words of my drabble I posted the week before.

I also suffer from anemia on top of my anxiety and depression. Silly me, I stopped taking my iron supplement, because I thought it wasn’t doing anything. Boy, did I prove myself wrong. Anemic, I’m tired and grumpy. So that’s back on track too. I won’t do that again.

This week, after my unintended vacation from writing, I’ve written almost 6000 words so far.

I’m to the climatic scene in my novel WIP and I’m working on replotting my novel from NaNo last year. It faltered about 2/3 through because the plot unraveled to the point where I was making more editing notes (which were more questions than notes) than actual writing. The story is solid and I love the premise and characters. So hopefully giving it the same plotting work-up I did for the one I’m working on currently will fix things.

Today’s short story has actually been in process for a few weeks. Yet somehow it only ended up at about 1300 words.

I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading. 🙂

~ Effy

Necromancer

In the darkest night in the darkest swamp paced the darkest dragon with the darkest heart. She wore a circular path through a swirling fog that reeked of old death and moist rot, mumbling to herself.

The hazy darkness absorbed the scant light of the twin moons, and Nehalennia’s black scales faded from view except when they caught the light of candles held by her deathless minions. Humanoids in various states of decay stood perfectly still until she came near, then lowered their head in deference. She hissed and bared her fangs at each of them, whispering words not meant for their decayed ears, and swept her head back and forth in a hypnotic display.

At the center of her scored and worn path lay a jumbled pile of bleached bones. Every dozen paces or so, Nehalennia would brush the bones with her talons in a touch that lingered.

“Now, what are the words?” the dragon hissed. She cocked her head as if listening, while tapping her chest plates with her talons. She let out a long hiss that was equal parts excitement and sigh. “Yes, now I can begin.”

Nehalennia continued in a circle and began to chant in a long forgotten language. Made up of hisses and long consonants, it seemed well fitted to a dragon’s tongue. The black dragon continued to pace as she chanted. The undead around her stood motionless.

The pile of bones quivered. They made a hollow clatter and reached upwards.

Nehalennia barked a noise of triumph. It interrupted her chanting, and the bones settled into silence once more.

Triumph turned to rage, and the black dragon stomped a foot, setting swamp animals, sleeping and nocturnal, on edge from the tremor. She roared. She flailed her talons and shredded the nearest undead. The creature fell in silent, bloodless gore.

The others stood stoic and unfazed. If their mistress chose to end their unlife, they had no opinion.

Nehalennia hissed and murmured to herself, chiding her impetuous display. Now there was a break in her circle, a candle with no bearer. Nehalennia cursed whatever gods were listening. She would need a new corpse to raise. The spell was abhorrently specific about the number, meant to be cast by one flanked with many followers.

Nehalennia had created her own followers, painstakingly, one at a time.

The first group had been easy, taken from a tiny village at the edge of the Dead Swamp, but humans had become more difficult to find after that. The last two had come to her completely by chance, a hapless merchant and his guard.

She sniffed the still air. Only wet and death and damp fur met her nostrils.

Nehalennia touched the bones with her talons, caressed them. “Soon,” she promised.

With an irritated hiss, Nehalennia settled on all four of her legs and lowered her body until it slithered along the ground as she walked. She hit the dark, stagnant water with barely a splash, only the faintest ripple, and swam out into the black of night.

She was not a patient dragon, but her determination outweighed her impatience. She waited near the single human road through the Dead Swamp with only her head and the ridge of her back visible in the water. Even as the sun rose and illuminated the greyish-green fog that always hung here, she would be hidden among the reeds and muck.

It could go weeks without a visitor to the swamp, but eventually the sound of horse hooves and wagon wheels over the pocked road brought Nehalennia out of a light doze, and she hissed in anticipation. Bubbles tickled her muzzle.

“That’s a big crocodile,” came the voice of a man.

She saw an arm stretch out, a finger pointing her way. Two faces peered over the side of the wagon. It brought with it the smell of sweaty horseflesh and unwashed human.

“That’s no crocodile…” the woman next to him began. She trailed off as she tried to get a better look. “I don’t know what…”

The black dragon held very still. She waited for the wagon’s front, where the two humans sat, to be nearly even with her waiting maw. Then she sprang forward with all the strength of all four of her legs, striking like a coiled snake, and catching both humans in her mouth.

They still wriggled briefly. By the time the wagon, led by the two panicked horses, was out of sight, they were still. Nehalennia was already back in the water, just two eyes scanning the stillness as a tail twitched behind and four legs pumped invisibly below.

She would have an extra, just in case.

Raising a human into undeath was easy, she’d had much practice now, but it was nothing compared to her ultimate goal. Nehalennia had spent years learning the art of necromancy. Her invisible companions had been invaluable. Before them, she’d seen failure over and over.

Now, their whispers instilled her with the knowledge she needed.

Her circle once more unbroken, a continuous wall of candles perfect in placement, the black dragon once more began to pace before the pile of bones gathered in the center.

“I have forgotten the words,” she hissed into the silent heavy fog. Her ever-present invisible mentors responded, whispering the old words to her silently. She tilted her head, listening, and her head began to nod in recognition. “Yes, yes.” A pleased smile tugged her lips back from her long, protruding teeth.

She began to pace and chant, swaying on her hind legs while making delicate gestures with her foreclaws.

The pile of bones wavered. The voices in her head cautioned focus. Nehalennia didn’t falter. Her voice grew stronger and more sure with each repeated line.

The shadows of the swamp been to coalesce like fog in the early morning. They swirled and danced and entered her circle of light. The undead never wavered. They did not feel the cold fingers of the dark magic Nehalennia summoned brush their skin, for they were beyond such senses.

Their stoicism strengthened her spell. She felt its power thrum around her.

The dark tendrils entwined the quivering bones, infused them.

Nehalennia’s eyes widened and she chanted louder. Her pacing quickened and it rumbled through the swamp like earth tremors.

The bones began to raise and dance with the summoned shadows.

The bones came together. They formed legs and feet and toes. Nehalennia continued reciting. They formed a tail from vertebrae, one at a time. Nehalennia continued chanting. A backbone grew from the tail, then a neck. Nehalennia continued, though her throat began to protest under the harsh rumble of the unfamiliar syllables. A skull, elongated, reptilian, and full of sharp teeth, attached to the neck.

The dark tendrils acted as tendons, pulling and holding the bones together as Nehalennia finished the final lines of the spell.

“Velenos!” she cried into the heavy night air, summoning his essence to the bone shell and giving him back his name.

The skull’s eyes began to glow with a green light. They raised on the long neck and came level with Nehalennia’s. The great dracolich rumbled and thrummed as it searched for its voice, flexing talons and neck and tail like a swamp lion waking from a nap.

“I am returned,” it said with a voice echoey as if it came from the bottom of a deep hole. The voice seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere.

“Yes, my love,” Nehalennia whispered, her voice hoarse, her energy drained. She panted and stumbled forward. She sighed and nuzzled against the neck and chest of the bone dragon. “We are together again.”

The dracolich thrummed.

Nehalennia could have faded into that moment for eternity, but the voices returned.

Now you will do something for us.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This story and all related material are the original works of Awaiting the Muse and Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti. All rights reserved.
Creative Commons License
Awaiting the Muse by Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Based on a work at https://awaitingthemuse.wordpress.com/.

The Long Road Too Short (Drabble)

I’m late. I know. I almost completely missed this week, but this came to me in my melancholy yesterday. It’s just a short piece this week. I’m a little scattered and stressed and exhausted this week.

~ Effy

The Long Road Too Short (Drabble)

I know someday you’ll leave me, not by choice but by the ravages of time. Everyday I watch you get up a little bit slower, take a little longer to greet me. Slowly, though crystal clear to me after all these years, I see your vision cloud, your hearing fade. Sometimes I catch you in a stare and wonder what far off thought you’re having. I call to you and have to repeat myself several times before you return to me. I wonder how many times you’ll come back. For now, I’m content with stroking your fur as you sleep.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This story and all related material are the original works of Awaiting the Muse and Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti. All rights reserved.
Creative Commons License
Awaiting the Muse by Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Based on a work at https://awaitingthemuse.wordpress.com/.

In Search of Sunrise (Drabble)

I’m still plugging away at a dragon piece I’ve been working on in between other things, but Friday night on my way home from work, this idea came to me. The title is actually a series of albums by Tiesto, and somehow Pandora played a string of them. It got me thinking of different things the title could mean.

By the time I got through traffic and home, I’d written about half of this in my head.

~ Effy

In Search of Sunrise (Drabble)

There is no sunrise in space. No atmosphere. No clouds catching fire in various shades of pink and orange and yellow as brilliance crowns the horizon.

That is how I remember the sunrises of my youth on Earth. Blazing fire.

Now there is only the cold black of space dotted with points of cold light. The hum of human machines and the flicker of man-made lights hold the cold at bay but it intrudes.

Now I drink the same recycled water. I eat the same climate-control grown food.

Space is dark and lonely as I continue in search of sunrise.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This story and all related material are the original works of Awaiting the Muse and Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti. All rights reserved.
Creative Commons License
Awaiting the Muse by Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Based on a work at https://awaitingthemuse.wordpress.com/.

Alice’s Diner (Short Story)

I don’t write a lot of real-world fiction, I mostly stick to fantasy, but I really wanted to write a story in a cliche diner setting. That sparked the first several hundred words of this piece. Then I realized I needed an actual plot. So I brainstormed some more and came up with this piece.

I hope you like it. 🙂

~ Effy

Alice’s Diner

It was Tuesday, broccoli cheese soup day. Theo sat at the counter in Alice’s Diner with his book, his coffee, and his broccoli cheese soup.

Alice’s should have been hosted by a middle-aged woman with her hair in a bun and a checkered skirt with a frilly apron who was someone’s mom. Instead, it was run by a big sweaty lump of a man named Dale. Dale was always sweating and greasy and was a horrible conversationalist, making him an overall unpleasant man. The food was terrible too, everything except the soup.

Theo only came to Alice’s because it was walking distance from his apartment and he liked to people watch.

Theo sipped a spoonful of soup and the texture and warmth of it on his tongue distracted him from his reading.

Theo doubted Dale made the wonderful soup from scratch. He probably bought it in giant condensed cans and set it in a big warming vat all day. Theo wondered if he could walk into Gordon Foods and buy a giant condensed can of the broccoli cheese soup, or perhaps something more sophisticated, like creamy tomato bisque.

Then he’d never have to make small talk with Dale again.

But then he would have missed the Tuesday a beautiful young woman named Kendra came into his life.

The bell over the door jingled and a woman staggered in, nearly tripping over the threshold. She shook like a dog, drenched from head to toe. Her blonde hair lay plastered to her face and her thin sundress clung to her lithe form.

The past few days had been hot and oppressively humid, but heavy rain had been in the forecast today. The woman had obviously been unprepared. She hadn’t checked the weather like Theo had.

She sat heavily on one of the stools at the bar, and Dale looked her over, wiping his hands on his greasy apron. “What’ll you have?” he asked in his gruff, unfriendly voice.

“Do you have a menu?” Theo admired her pleasant voice in the wake of Dale’s rudeness.

As she looked it over, Theo said, “The broccoli cheese soup is very good.” He gave her a genuine smile, nervously worrying the corner of a page in his book and hoping she didn’t notice.

She did.

The woman glanced at the thick book in front of him, laying open on the formica counter thick with words and worlds, and gave him a smile in return, but it barely twisted her lips. It didn’t reach her eyes. Theo knew that smile, but he didn’t let it dishearten him.

Instead, he chuckled, to himself more than anyone, realizing he was the only one of the three of them not dripping wet. That would have been unfortunate, as it surely would have ruined his tailored suit coat and new custom leather shoes.

Neither Dale nor the woman laughed. So Theo took a sip of his coffee. It was now cold and thick and gritty, making it extra bitter.

“I’ll have the breakfast special. Eggs over easy.”

“Ain’t breakfast no more,” Dale grunted.

“But it says here ‘breakfast all day.’” She pointed at the menu.

“Yah, but not for cheap.”

“So if you serve eggs at 3pm, they’re more costly than at 9am?” The woman gave him an innocent smile with just a hint of sarcasm.

Dale pressed his lips into a thin line, not replying.

Theo chuckled into the crease of his book. Both Dale and the woman looked at him, less amused.

“Breakfast special. Regular price is fine. Over easy eggs. And a water.”

Dale went to the flat griddle and scooped a big spoonful of lard onto it. It melted and sizzled.

“You know, you could just have Dale bring you a glass and squeeze the water from your hair.” Theo chuckled again, picturing it, but he was still the only one laughing.

“I think we’re distracting you from your book,” the woman said.

Theo’s lip twitched downward, just a little bit, then back up. “Nah, this is the Count of Monte Cristo. I’ve read it several times before.”

The woman nodded. She picked the menu back up and held it close to her face.

“You know, Dumas got paid by the line, and his books were released in serial. That’s why they’re so long.”

The woman didn’t answer. She studied the menu. Theo shrugged and went back to reading. He glanced at his coffee and wished Dale would have topped it off.

Dale returned with the breakfast special. The plate shimmered with grease and everything slid around on it as he dropped it to the counter. The eggs quivered. Theo’s stomach lurched.

The woman smiled. “Thank you.” She picked up the plate and her glass of water and walked to a table at the other end of the diner, near a window.

He went back to his book but watched the woman from the corner of his eye. As her hair dried, it began to spring upward in large blonde curls that fascinated Theo. She ate slowly and silently, her phone out and her thumb sliding across the screen.

Dale had retreated to a corner of the counter where he could read the day’s newspaper. The only sound in the diner was soft adult contemporary drifting down from the speakers and the occasional clink of the woman’s fork against her plate.

She finished her food, threw down some cash, and ran back out into the rain. Theo almost missed her. He left exact change for his meal with a twenty percent gratuity and shook out his umbrella. He opened it outside as the diner’s door jingled closed and took up a leisurely, long-legged pace.

She walked the opposite direction of Theo’s apartment from Alice’s Diner. No wonder he’d never seen her before. She ran down a street with a line of townhomes and sprinted up a set of stairs and onto a porch out of the rain.

Townhouse number 796.

Theo kept walking, holding his umbrella low.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

For two weeks, Theo did his homework.

Her name was Kendra Hendricks. She worked as a legal secretary for Hughes & Hughes. She had a grey tabby cat named Georgie. She’d lived in her townhouse for almost two years and visited her mother monthly two towns over. Her favorite flower was daffodils.

There were a few times that Kendra noticed him and they made eye contact. Theo smiled and waved before she continued on her way.

Thursday, Theo sent her a bouquet of daffodils and lilies. The look on her face when she received it at her desk made it worth every penny.

Friday, Theo got distracted by an exceptionally shoddy piece of code from one of his fellow programmers that almost derailed everything. It was already after four when he found the errors and Theo thought to leave it until Monday.

The thought made his pulse quicken.

Theo sighed and rolled his chair back from his desk.

Frank was laughing at something on his phone when Theo came around the cubicle wall. Frank jumped and nearly dropped his phone when Theo said, “Hey, Frank.”

“Jesus, Theo. You scared the shit out of me.”

Theo thought to comment about swearing being a sign of low intelligence but held his tongue. Instead, he manufactured a smile and dropped a stack of paper on Frank’s desk. The number of red marks almost matched the black on the page flipped to the top.

“It’s juvenile, like mixing up ‘accept’ and ‘except,’” Theo said, pointing, “but the way I always remember it is…”

“Thanks, Theo. I’ll take care of it.”

Theo’s lip twitched downward, just a little bit, then back up. “Have a good weekend, Frank.”

“You too, Theo.”

Theo was already walking away. He snagged his jacket off the back of his chair and pushed it under the desk in one motion. Then he hurried out of the office without speaking to anyone else.

He grabbed some groceries on his way. It was a special night and worthy of a special dinner. No soup, no greasy eggs, no bitter coffee. Tonight, he made a casserole his mom had made many times throughout his childhood.

The whole place smelled of casserole by the time the door opened at 5:45pm.

Theo was on the couch, petting a very content and purring Georgie.

Kendra’s mouth dropped open, but no words came out.

“I’ve rendered you speechless, it seems.”

“I’m calling the police,” she said. “Get away from my cat!”

She raised her phone. As she started dialing, Theo was already across the room. He took both her hands lightly but firmly in his own and smiled at her. As he flipped her phone from her hands and into his pocket, he held them with just enough effort to keep her from pulling them away.

“Kendra, tonight is just for us. No interruptions. I’m glad you liked the flowers yesterday. They make the perfect centerpiece to dinner.”

Kendra’s eyes widened with realization. “How do you know my name? And where I work? And where I live?”

“So many questions!” Theo chuckled.

A timer sounded.

“First, dinner. We’ll talk over food.”

Kendra tugged her arms to no avail.

Theo looked her in the eyes, his whole face lit with his smile. “Please, come sit at the table.”

“You’re crazy.”

Theo’s lip twitched downward, just a little bit, then back up. “I’ll help you to your seat.” His hands tightened on her fingers until Kendra whimpered.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Monday came too quickly, as it always did.

Patting Georgie on the head as he left, Theo locked the front door of townhouse number 796 behind him and headed to work.

It was a typical Monday of meetings and code and fixing the mistakes of others, but Theo wouldn’t let anyone bring him down today. He’d had a lovely weekend with a lovely woman.

Tuesday came around again, broccoli cheese soup day, and Theo filled his regular spot at the counter in Alice’s Diner. The weatherman had warned it would be hot and humid, and several patrons came in to enjoy the air conditioning and escape the heat.

Among them, a young woman with short brunette hair, dark eyes, and a low top with short shorts. Theo smiled at her from down the length of the counter and she avoided his gaze.

He took a sip of his coffee. It was now cold and thick and gritty, making it extra bitter. But the woman down the counter kept his attention until she left, when he grabbed his jacket, left exact change including a twenty percent gratuity, and followed her away from Alice’s Diner.

He had to know her name.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This story and all related material are the original works of Awaiting the Muse and Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti. All rights reserved.
Creative Commons License
Awaiting the Muse by Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Based on a work at https://awaitingthemuse.wordpress.com/.

Rescue (Drabble)

I struggled with a story I really wanted to publish this week. Then I woke up Saturday morning with the spark of an idea. It turned into this short piece.

~ Effy

Rescue

After months of chores and proving myself, Mom finally agreed to take me to Moonlight Rescue to pick out a pet of my own.

The enclosures seemed to go on and on.

“Mom, they all look so sad.”

“That’s because this is no place to live. They need real homes and families.”

I knelt down and came to face level with one fuzzy face. Dark eyes glistened and a whine came up from a muzzle tucked between two large paws.

The sign on the enclosure said “Luna.” Beneath that read: “Every year, thousands of werewolves are euthanized. Adopt don’t shop.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This story and all related material are the original works of Awaiting the Muse and Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti. All rights reserved.
Creative Commons License
Awaiting the Muse by Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Based on a work at https://awaitingthemuse.wordpress.com/.

…There’s Fire (Excerpt)

A recently discovered cave used by the Knights Templar

Last week, I was very surprised to find out my throwaway, I’m going to kill you at the end of the prologue character, Solaes, had quite a few fans. This included my alpha readers, as I call them, my mom and my boyfriend (AKA my story guinea pigs). As soon as he finished reading, my boyfriend said, “You better not kill her.” At first, I laughed it off, but as the week progressed, I realized I liked her too.

This created a whole slew of unexpected problems… How do I fit her into my story? Who is she? Where is she from? How is this going to affect the story I’ve already written? It even made me rethink the entire structure of the Church of Bael, but I think there’s a lot of depth to it now.

It solved other problems as well, like explaining things my MC wouldn’t be able to witness along his path. A new viewpoint is opening up some previously frustrating problems.

I had already started to write this piece. The first line came to me while I was trying to fall asleep one night, and about a third of the High Priest’s speech I had written before I knew where this was going. But it didn’t have a path or a point of view character. Then, suddenly, I had a character who might have a reason to be there: Solaes got roughed up and is trying to find out WHY.

So this is sort of a continuation of last week’s piece. There’s quite a jump in time, though. I’ll be filling in the middle soon.

The image above was an inspiration for the setting in this piece. A farmer discovered a rabbit hole that led to a cave that had once been used by the Knights Templar. Fascinating stuff.

I hope you enjoy this piece as much as I do. I’m really excited about Solaes’s addition to my WIP.

~ Effy

…There’s Fire

Far from the eyes of the fair-weather faithful, the Baelish prostrated and prayed until the candles guttered low. Then they prayed more. They prayed to their two-faced god in deep underground grottos and waited.

Solaes made the motions, holding her hood tight around her face and wishing it would end. She still disguised her appearance but took no chances. The other handmaidens ignored her, focused only on the idol at the room’s highest point, flickering in the candlelight, light and dark, half-man, half-dragon.

A robed man came from the hidden darkness behind the idol. A cowl covered his face, hiding all except what the candles lit, glimmering eyes and gleaming teeth. He looked predatory. Solaes had never met him before but knew him to be the High Priest by his starkly contrasting half-white, half-black robes.

The gathered Baelish let out a collective murmur of excitement and the High Priest waited as they calmed and grew silent. A whispering shadow, High Priestess Favalie appeared behind him and settled to his left.

The High Priest addressed the gathered Baelish:

“As champions of Bael the Grey
We must walk the fine line
Between Darkness and Light
Between Inferno and Elysium.
For how can we save those
Who fall to the Darkness
Without being intimate with Shadow?
How can we preach Light
When we know only the Sun?”

Whispered agreement rippled through the Baelish, accented by nods and bobs and clasped hands. “Embrace the light. Embrace the dark,” came the collective reply.

“For far too long
We’ve denied our nature
Our human nature.
Bael accepts humanity
The good and the bad
The Light and the Dark.
He embraces it.
Bael is the Light.
Bael is the Dark.
Bael is the shades of grey
In between.”

“Praise be to Bael,” the Baelish said. Solaes shivered at the unanimous monotone and the hairs it raised on her neck.

The High Priest’s eyes seemed to meet hers, and Solaes’s heart skipped a beat. He couldn’t know her, even if she had been without her disguise. She tried to look cow-eyed and enrapt.

“Our purpose as priests of
Bael the Grey,
The two-faced god,
Is to save souls.
Save them from
Fiery Inferno
And lead them to
Everlasting Elysium.
We do this daily–
We feed their body
And nurture their mind.”

The High Priest gestured to High Priestess Favalie, and she nodded, never unfolding her arms from where they crossed in front of her chest, forming a haphazard slash of black and white on the front of her robe. The priestesses and handmaidens around Solaes rose their voices in praise of their High Priestess. “Feed the body. Nurture the mind.”

The High Priest’s eyes grew hard as he continued, his voice more urgent.

“But Bael seeks
To test his faithful.
For magic has come
To our fair kingdom…”

The gathered Baelish murmured in a distraught moan at the word “magic.”

Solaes’s chest tightened. The young man she had seen pulled off the street and beaten in an alley flashed across her mind. Unlike with her attack, it was in broad daylight. The Baelish didn’t even try to hide anymore. They didn’t have to. She had tried to rush to his rescue, but one of the priests had struck him in the temple before she got there. She flinched remembering the sound and the sight of the light leaving his eyes.

“Dark magic and
Those who use it,
They seek to
Test our commitment
Test our strength
Test our loyalty.”

His voice rose and quickened with each proclamation. The collective response rose to match it, and someone shouted, “We are loyal!”

“Yes, we are loyal.
We walk in the
Word of our god
But many stray–
Our flock is vulnerable.
They walk in the path of
Bael’s dark eye.”

The Baelish resembled a stormy sea, a ripple of grey movement, as they agreed with growing fervency.

“Bael’s distress
Shows in the weather…
A harsh, bitter winter
That killed many
Through its bite.
Now a sweltering summer
Parching with drought
Searing with heat.
Our livelihood withers
In the field and
On the branch.”

One of the handmaidens began to cry. Solaes heard her wailing to her right. She thought it might be Jordana, but she didn’t look. She dared not bring more attention to herself.

“Yes, sister,
We all mourn.
But we must do more.
We must destroy
This evil blight,
Destroy this magic,
Before it can
Destroy us.”

A cheerful sob escaped the handmaiden and the gathered raised their voice in praise.

Solaes tensed, and her arms quaked beneath the heavy folds of the robe, fatigued with holding her weight up as she knelt on the dirt floor. She felt as if she were at the center of the room, though she was not, and retreated deeper into her hood.

“How do we destroy it?” a priest asked, desperation in his voice. Others agreed in a collective nod and a whisper of, “Yes, tell us.”

The High Priest smiled, and to the gathered Baelish it was surely a reassuring smile, but to Solaes it dripped with malicious intent. Once more, he looked the predator. She became mesmerized by his dark, glittering eyes. She felt he looked straight at her and into her soul.

“Brothers and sisters,
We must root out
Magic’s source.
We must save those
Who don’t know they
Need saving.”

“Bael, save us!” a handmaiden cried.

“We must save ourselves!
Duke Victus was not
Strong enough
To see the truth.
He fell because
He ushered doom
Into our land.
He welcomed it
Into his home,
Into our home.”

The Baelish became agitated. The response became a cacophony of noise, mixtures of crying, sighing, swearing, and moaning.

“Fear not!” At the High Priest’s sudden booming voice, the collected Baelish silenced under it like a command.

“Fear not,” he repeated quieter, and all hung on his words, leaning closer.

“Bael has prepared us.
We do not go
Forward alone.
Together
We are mightier
Than the enemy.”

Solaes swallowed at the dryness in her throat. It felt packed with cotton. The High Priest remained fixated on her, spoke straight to her. She retreated further into the shadow of her hood, wishing she could meld into the shadows.

“That enemy who is among us!” The High Priest said it so suddenly Solaes flinched.

A collective cry went up and every acolyte, every priest, every handmaiden, every priestess, looked around them, to their neighbors, desperation in their eyes.

Looking for the enemy.

“Who is the enemy? Point us!” someone begged.

Solaes couldn’t convince her legs to obey her. She knew she should run. She knew the High Priest’s focus before his finger pointed her out. But where could she run? She was surrounded, and as soon as the accusatory finger settled, hundreds of feverish, rabid Baelish descended upon her.

Robed bodies crushed her, clawing and punching, and Solaes summoned air to her lungs without thinking about it. She gasped it in, though she couldn’t expand her lungs fully.

Panic overtook her, and she retreated inward. Blows fell, bruising her. Panic changed to angry self-preservation. Solaes burst upward, lashing out in an explosion of fire, radiating out a sphere of flames.

Screams rained around her ears but the press of bodies receded. Only the smell of burnt flesh and hair surrounded her.

Solaes forced her legs beneath her and ran, clutching her chest as fire burned within her breast.

The High Priest’s voice rose above the confusion:

“Capture the magician!
Smother the flame!
Your salvation lies
In her demise!”

Solaes ran through a maze of corridors. Each looked the same. Each carved from the dirt and rock. Each formed of the same curving archways. Each lined with flickering, candle-crowded alcoves.

Her previous descent was a blur. She couldn’t even know what direction she headed. The corridors were flat. They didn’t rise. Solaes didn’t either. The surface was impossibly far.

Each corridor continued on in an unending mirror of the previous.

Footsteps, multiplied by a hundred, echoed behind her. They grew closer.

Solaes hesitated where several corridors met. She gasped the stale earthy air. She glanced behind her. She went left.

She met a dead end and exhaled a sob.

The stampede of feet slowed, and it was the High Priest who first came through the archway, a press of bodies walling off the way through. He smiled at her and didn’t speak right away. He merely looked Solaes up and down, taking in her borrowed robe and her borrowed face.

“Drop the masquerade, my dear,” he said, his voice a dangerous purr.

Solaes did.

“Ahh, the fire dancer.”

She didn’t know how he knew her, but kept quiet. She waited, expecting him to continue, but he did not. She blinked back the hot, angry tears that stung her eyes as she held his gaze.

The High Priest gestured and two priests came forward. “Do better this time. Don’t let her get away. But don’t kill her or you’ll answer to me.” He disappeared through the packed bodies of acolytes and priests. They expanded around him and contracted back into place, crowding the archway and cutting off her escape.

The two priests grabbed her arms and Solaes struggled. Fingers pressed into her flesh like steel clamps and twisted her arms behind her until she cried out in pain. She flared her skin with fire, but the priests wore gloves this time and merely blinked at the flames and sneered at her.

She looked up.

The priests looked up.

The ceiling above began to rumble. It started with a few pebbles, then larger clods of earth and stone, and then the entire smooth-carved ceiling above them crashed down around their ears.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Solaes awoke in darkness.

She swore. She was still alive. She hoped she had at least taken out those two priests.

Cold metal bound her wrists and ankles, clanking as she moved her arms and legs. They kept her from standing.

Metal. A material she couldn’t manipulate, but maybe she could heat it.

She focused on one of the links until it began to glow red in the darkness. The molten red metal began to drip. Half a dozen drips fell as Solaes tried to hold her concentration. Perspiration sprung on her brow. Her chest became uncomfortable, but she tried to ignore it.

She pulled her focus away, panting. She’d misshapen it, but not even broken through the single link. Getting through one chain would take forever. All four? She slumped against the wall, the shackles clanking.

“You awake in their, girlie?” a voice from outside her small space said. A yellowish light appeared before her as a window in the door opened.

Solaes hid her hands and blinked in the light as she watched the eyeballs studying her. They were wide with most of the white showing, and they swiveled in their sockets searching the darkness where she sat, helpless but hidden from his sight.

She didn’t answer.

“You want some food? I can get you some food. You’re allowed that.”

She still didn’t answer.

“Okay then.” The window closed and the light disappeared.

“Wait!” Her voice cracked, and her throat felt like she’d swallowed razor blades.

The window opened a tiny bit.

“I want something to drink.”

“Okay then.”

The window closed. There was silence and Solaes thought the jailor had left. She was about to shout again when metal clattered and the door opened. Her jailor’s eyes fell on her as the light from the corridor intruded, making her squint. She couldn’t raise her hand enough to block it.

He opened the door wider, letting more light into the cell.

He approached cautiously, as if he thought she might already have slipped her bounds.

He crouched and dropped a tray to the floor with a clang. A bowl of colorless sludge slopped around, some splattering out. Solaes was more interested in the cup in his hand.

“Water, please,” she croaked. Her tongue would barely work, dry and thick in her mouth. She raised her arms and they jingled a discordant tune, only half-raised before the chains stopped her.

“Okay then. You behave and I’ll give you this.” His other hand held a staff, oaken and metal-shod. His boots slid across the floor, one at a time, inches that took hours.

Solaes realized the man was scared of her. Or scared of her magic.

She took the cup when it was finally within reach and guzzled it. It caught in her throat, and she coughed half of it back up until she was gasping and her throat was screaming worse than before.

“Now, now. That’s no way to drink it.”

Solaes glared at the jailor as she fought to catch her breath.

He dropped back a step. “Okay then. I’ll let you eat in the dark.” He scooted out faster than he had come in. The door clanged behind him.

The cell went black.

Food didn’t interest her, only escaping before she had to face the High Priest again.

She waited for an opportunity to attack her jailor, but he didn’t come back. She fell into a restless sleep, leaning against the wall in the only comfortable position she could manage, which made her neck sore.

She awoke with a start when the jailor began to speak. Her head rolled on her neck as she tried to shake off sleep. The words were muffled, whether by the door or her sleep-fogged mind, she wasn’t sure. She realized with a sigh that he wasn’t talking to her. There was a second voice, a second jailor.

Jailor number one left. Jailor number two stood silently outside the door.

He opened the window a crack, and though it pained her eyes, Solaes was glad for the light. “You be good and we’ll have a nice quiet night, you and me.” Jailor number two was younger and the fear in jailor number one’s voice was absent.

An idea came to Solaes. She hoped she could summon the energy.

She disguised herself and her voice. “Hey! Lemme outta here!” she said in what she hoped was a good enough impression of jailor number one.

Jailor number two spun and opened the window wider. “Jakie? That you?”

Solaes didn’t know his name, but played along. “Yah, open the door!”

“How’d you get in there?”

“That magician. She attacked me and locked me up.”

“How? I just talked to you. You just left.”

“That was her! She must be able to disguise herself, to look like me!”

Jailor number two looked dubious. “How do I know this isn’t a trick?”

“No trick. How else would I be in here?”

Jailor number two didn’t reply.

“Gimme outta here! We gotta catch her before she gets away.”

Jailor number two fumbled with the keys in the door. It opened wide and Solaes blinked, hoping her disguise was holding.

“Jakie, how dumb are you?”

“Okay then, pretty dumb, but it don’t matter. The High Priest will have our skins!”

Jailor number two nodded and sorted through the keys again. “I can’t believe it,” he mumbled. He found the key he was looking for and put it to each shackle.

Still looking like jailor number one, Solaes rubbed her wrists. “Okay then. Let’s go.”

Jailor number two nodded again. He tucked the keys into his belt and walked to the door. Solaes came through behind him.

His staff stood just outside the cell door. Solaes grabbed it, swung, and knocked jailor number two on the head as hard as she could. It made a sickening soft thunk, but jailor number two didn’t drop like Solaes had expected.

Her eyes went wide and so did his.

“You! You tricked me!” He felt the bloody lump on his head. Frowning, he charged her, reaching for his staff.

Solaes let him grab a hold of it and they struggled with it. She drew him close enough that she could smell the garlic on his breath.

She inhaled deeply, and jailor number two’s eyes went wide. He gasped, and his grip on the staff lessened. He fought for breath, his hands going to his throat, clawing there as if trying to pull away squeezing hands.

His face turned red, then bluish.

Solaes took a step back, holding the staff out before her like a shield.

Jailor number two fell to his knees, still gasping, his face turning a darker shade of purple.

Finally he collapsed to the ground. Solaes looked at him for a moment, horrified at herself. She shook it off and dragged him into the cell. Luckily, he wasn’t much bigger than her. She shackled him to the wall, locked the cell door behind her, and disappeared into the corridor.

This time, she blended herself into the shadows and took her time, without a hundred Baelish right on her heels. She’d had more than enough of this place.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This story and all related material are the original works of Awaiting the Muse and Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti. All rights reserved.
Creative Commons License
Awaiting the Muse by Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Based on a work at https://awaitingthemuse.wordpress.com/.