Standoff (Drabble)

Image from Pixabay.

This week, even though it was a shorter one, was exhausting. I’m training a new person at work and still trying to get all of my regular responsibilities taken care of. Friday was Ender’s birthday. She turned 16 and it will be the last time I get to celebrate it with her. And next week is my brother’s wedding. I’m tired and stressed out. And to add to all of it, I had a less than stellar check-up at the doctor’s recently. I’m getting old and my body seems to be in revolt. So now I’m going to be on a few medications. Bummer. Maybe it’s why I feel so crappy lately.

BUT I’m making sure I try I stay creatively engaged. I’m currently working on some character profiles for my main characters and some of my major point of view characters. I’m writing their histories up to when their stories start and their flaws. Then I want to add some information about what they want and what’s preventing them.

I think this and some drabbles is the best I can do until after the wedding and getting our new person up to speed and taking care of Ender…

This week’s drabble is part of a larger piece and the first sentence is actually from a writing prompt shared on Facebook. Enjoy!

~ Effy

Standoff (Drabble)

Two thousand warriors drew their swords for a war they would not win. No one would win this war.

On one side stood the elves, keepers of the land, tenders of the ancient trees. On the other, the humans waited, strangers in a strange land and fighting for their independence.

Dark forces pulled the strings. A jealous god plotted as his puppets played out a bloody drama. Ancient monsters teemed below, awaiting their opportunity.

Warriors shifted on restless legs. Magi fingered magical components. Horses paced as griffons and pegasi stood stoic. The Sunstone warbled mournfully.

The world held its breath.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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/.

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Happily Ever After (Drabble)

Image from Pixabay.

I haven’t been writing much. Instead, I have been transferring notes from old notebooks into digital files. Some of these notebooks are back from 2003. Heh. Luckily, it’s sparking some ideas. Unfortunately, I’m spread between five or more different ideas. But on the plus side, it’s also sparking more drabble ideas. But I’m without a solid writing project at the moment. Of course with how exhausted I am after work lately, it might be for the best until things settle down again.

Phew.

I thought about trying to get organized for Camp NaNoWriMo this month, but I imagine it will be another few weeks before I’m settled enough to be very productive. I’m determined to start writing regularly again, and I think I need a new first draft to do so.

Until then, I’ll attempt to keep publishing drabbles (or longer pieces) each week.

Enjoy.

~ Effy

Happily Ever After (Drabble)

Sir Dane galloped up to the dreaded dragon’s lair. He had conquered many heroic tasks atop his steed and bedecked in his finest armor.

A stale breeze wafted forth as if the mouth breathed the beast’s own rank breath. Sir Dansk drew his sword and screwed his courage. When his eyes adjusted to the dim interior, he saw not the dragon but the fair Princess Stephanie. Her look was not appreciative.

“Did you ever think perhaps I don’t want to be ‘saved’?”

He had not.

“Get along before Melusine cooks you in your armor.” Yellow eyes glared.

And he did.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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/.

Dreary (Drabble)

Image from Pixabay.

This was a rough week. I’ve been working some extra hours at work and I’ve been pretty wiped out by the time I get home. It’s short term, I know, but it’s making me wonder if I can keep up this 1000 Day MFA thing. I hate feeling like I’m always playing catch up. I’m still reading some and writing some, but I think it’s too much on top of a full-time job.

Somehow I still managed to get two drabbles together, though. Here’s the first one. I’ll post the next one next week and hope that I have myself enough back together to get another short story finished the following week.

~ Effy

Dreary (Drabble)

Ping sighed and brushed away a wayward tear as it trickled down his reddened cheek. He watched the rain drizzle down with its dreary melancholy, reflecting his mood. The village below was dark and silent. It had been quiet most of the day, since the rain had begun. Puddles gathered, growing bigger as the day progressed, fusing together into ever larger puddles.

A knock came to the door. Ping frowned. A streak of lightning flashed white, followed by a thunderous boom.

Miehiu peeked around the door. “Hi, Ping. I came to check on you before you flood the village again.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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/.

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/.

Where There’s Smoke… (Prologue)

I like prologues. I’m not afraid to say it.

My current work in progress almost got by without a prologue, and then this week it hit me that it could benefit from one. Since it’s deeply from my main character’s point of view, it’s proving difficult to figure out how to tell the story of what the antagonist is doing in the background. I’m hoping to break the ice of that with a prologue.

I’ve been struggling to write this week. So I want to apologize, as I don’t feel this is as polished as I’d like it to be.

Let me know what you think. Would this interest you enough to keep reading the book?

Where There’s Smoke…

Solaes danced in a hypnotic display of skin barely hidden by shimmering orange sheer and complemented by tendrils of flame. Tongues of red and orange fanned before her fingers and reflected in the unblinking eyes of her audience. They rained coins of gold and silver before her, and Solaes traced snaking trails through them with her bare feet.

The music alternated between slow and fast and her body knew every beat–her feet, her hands, her torso, keeping in time. Teasing and snapping, dancing and flipping, sinuous movements merged limbs and fire until they were one. A tap of her foot sent a column of fire spinning into the dark sky. A sweep of her arm twirled a dancing fan that lit her face and her dark eyes.

She watched the flames as intently as those who paid to see her. Faces faded into the darkness beyond until only Solaes and her dancing fire existed.

Slowing again, the music cued her to conjure a new fire. She built it before her until she all but disappeared behind a wall of orange that twisted and swayed to the beat. It took shape until a dragon of fire danced with her. Tempo building, Solaes and the fire dragon followed until its wings snapped open and a roar of flame jetted from its mouth.

The dragon disappeared and Solaes stood there alone, arms raised, skin glistening, chest heaving, in the shadow and afterglow.

Applause exploded and a smile lifted Solaes’s lips.

Then the jeering began.

“Blasphemer!” a disembodied voice called. The voices were always stronger when they hid in the dark crowd. “You dare flaunt Bael’s dark image? His vengeance burns hotter than your evil magic.”

“Come forward and face me, critic,” Solaes replied.

As she expected, the man attached to the voice disappeared. Only her true fans remained, but they had grown quiet.

“Thank you for coming, folks. Tomorrow night I’ll be at the closing of the summer festival. I hope to see you there.”

As they dispersed, Kargen, the innkeeper, approached her. “Let me walk you home. It’s late.”

Solaes gave him a humoring smile. “I’m fine. Go home to your wife and children.”

“Maisy’d put me out if she knew I’d let you walk alone.”

“She worries too much.”

“You worry too little.”

Solaes met Kargen’s unrelenting gaze. “Alright.”

She started walking and Kargen took a few long strides to catch up. He didn’t speak but his presence comforted her more than she let on. Her fans were loyal but her critics were becoming more vocal.

The farther they got from the inn, the darker it got. It was high summer and the sun retreated late, but it was nearing midnight, the darkest time and the best time for her show. The day’s weather had been scorching and the humidity still hung in the air, but Solaes shivered at the warm breeze that brushed her sweaty skin and raised the hairs there.

The cobble streets were quiet and empty, only the buzz of cicadas and the flicker of glow bugs keeping them company.

Several uneventful blocks later, they reached the building were Solaes rented a room above a bookstore. She placed a hand on the railing that would lead her up and turned back to Kargen. “See? Nothing to worry about.”

Kargen grunted. “I’ll wait until you’re inside.”

“I do appreciate the gesture–” A sound cut her off and they both looked into the dark alleyway between her building and the next.

Kargen held up a finger and took a cautious step toward the sound’s direction.

“It’s probably a stray,” Solaes said, but she realized she was whispering. A warm prickle traveled up her neck and scalp and she crossed her arms tightly over her chest.

Kargen was already half-hidden in darkness, sweeping his gaze back and forth. As Solaes watched, a thump caused him to shudder and buckle. A gasp caught in her throat. Four men detached from the shadows, more dragging Kargen’s limp form out of sight. They wore dark clothes and carried metal-shod staves.

Solaes licked dry lips and summoned a small flicker of fire to her palm. The four hesitated. The woman smiled with a confidence she didn’t feel, but she refused to let them know that.

“I suggest you run along before I make you all very crispy.”

Sneering faces looked back at her, catching the small orange light weirdly.

A hand grabbed her arm and Solaes jumped in fright. She yanked back but it tightened until she cried out in pain. She tried to twist and aim fire at her attacker but he stayed behind her. Solaes grit her teeth and conjured it all around her, flaring up from the street in a column but not scorching her.

The unseen attacker shouted and stumbled away, freeing her arm. She raised it with a flick of fingers and a spray of flame.

Her remaining attackers scattered.

Solaes gripped her chest as it tightened and burned. Her show had tired her out. Using fire this way exhausted her. Using so much at once hurt.

They seemed to realize this and were already surrounding her as she tried to recover and summon more fire. Her next spray was a weak flicker of sparks. Several hands grabbed at her. Solaes tried to struggle but her arms were like lead and her chest ached. She fought to draw breath but it merely fanned the flames in her breast.

One of the faces came close to hers. “We don’t appreciate your kind here.”

“My kind?” Solaes asked, her voice a hoarse croak.

“You bring your magic and destroy our kingdom.”

“You’re mad.” She couldn’t get more words past the razor blades in her throat.

A grin that seemed to justify her accusation was his only reply. The hands tightened on her arms as the first of many blows from the man’s metal-shod staff bruised her flesh.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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/.