Last Pages: a short story

I can’t claim full credit for this story. It was the product of a ‘what if’ conversation between a friend and I about diaries and writing and death. I knew at once I had to put it in a story at some point, and this was the result.

Coaching(6)

All they’d left were the books, dusty and stained with blood and tears.

Kyth stood among the rubble, tiny pebbles skittering around his boots in a hot wind. The sun glared from the pale, iron sky, unforgiving to any who ventured into this forgotten crevice.

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Captive Bride

The Volandums had absurd ideas about how to treat a captive princess. I mean, golden chains? Really? Were they showing me off to the people, or were they showing off their own wealth to me? I honestly wasn’t sure anymore.

My mount’s hooves clopped against the flower-strewn pavement of Dezmond’s central street and I briefly let my gaze wander, taking in the towering stone buildings, mapping out routes, exits, dead ends. They were crowded now, with cheering citizens greeting their returning king. Oh yes, and the Elentisaren princess who’d been the price of peace and would become their queen.

I gazed steadily at the faces passing by. Returning each insolent stare with defiance. Each slur with a smirk. Each fragment of pity with determination. But many of the gazes were ones of wonder. Or perhaps they were just staring at my ridiculous white fluttery dress. Loose bits of gauze flew about my waist and a heavy necklace hung about my bare neck while taches of gold fastened my sleeves. All in all, it wasn’t a dress I’d be able to slip away in without being recognized.

But, mostly, my gaze rested on the guards surrounding my mount. An especially grim soldier led my horse, but others closed in on all sides. Two before. Three on each side of me. Four more behind. Not as if they thought I could escape, but I couldn’t help relishing in their worry over the almost mystical legends surrounding the Elentisaren Phoenix, otherwise known as the most deadly woman assassin in history. They seemed to think she’d not stand for her princess being taken by Volandums. And that she’d be coming after me.

Ahead of me, the Volandum king shifted in his saddle. His gaze swept over me for the dozeneth time. And, for the dozeneth time I met his stare with a glare of my own and the slightest curl of my lips.

His own smile creased his beard as he turned away.

The Volandums respected strength. Already the king was well pleased with the spirit of his bride-to-be.

Except all the Volandums lacked one small detail.

And, as the castle of Dezmond loomed over us, I permitted my smirk to deepen. The Volandums thought they were welcoming a bride. Instead they were providing the Phoenix of Elentisa safe passage into their most guarded fortress.

They’d been right about one thing. I wasn’t about to let my cousin, the princess, surrender her freedom for peace.

I was the Phoenix. And I was here to bring Voland to her knees

 

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Flames of Resistance

The moat was nearly dry, all except the pool surrounding the causeway up to the castle gate. It was deep there yet. Hopefully it was deep enough.

Fathren tried to swallow, but his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth as a hot wind swept over the dry parched plains. He told himself it was from the rationing of water, but the dust raised by the invader’s armies wasn’t helping either.

“Ready?” His whispered cracked.

“Ready.” Three soft voice replied from the dry grass about him.

Fathren nodded his fingers tightened around his bow as his breath hissed rapidly though the cloth covering the lower half of his face. They had one chance, the four of them. If they failed, they’d die. If they succeeded, they would be branded destroyers. But at least the invaders would suffer a bitter blow.

Already the steady tramp of feet were echoing along the brush filled moat surrounding the castle. On the wall, the sun glinted off silent troops.

Fathren closed his eyes for a long moment, then drew an arrow. “On my mark, and may the Prince be with us all.”

“May the Prince be with us.” His companions’ voices were accompanied by the swish of arrows.

Fathren tensed, measuring the distance of the approaching soldiers. The troops in the moat. The horsemen behind his party in the tall grasses. The dryness of the grasses.

Almost…almost…

He raised one hand.

Now!

Fathren sliced his hand downward and leapt to his feet, springing to the middle of the causeway. Focusing, he breathed on the tip of his arrow and his heart leapt as it flashed into a flame.

“Draw!” His voice seemed to echo along the battlements even as startled cried from the wall reflected the shouts of derision from the invaders.

“Aim!”

He focused toward the brush just beyond the lead troop, feeling rather than seeing his friends fall in place behind him.

“Loose!”

His string sang as the arrow cut through the air. Shouts burst into a confused babble and Fathren spun, a single glimpse assuring him his companion’s arrows had found their mark while anger ripple through the walls above. But it was the only way. The lord would have surrendered if given the chance. Surrendered, and been slaughtered.

He’d not have the chance.

And, as Fathren followed his men, leaping over the causeway to the murky pool beneath, he only hoped the flames already catching hold on the plains and enveloping the invaders would be enough to save them all.

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Beautiful Chains

They were beautiful. And they were deadly.

Delicate scars twisted down the right side of her face and her arm in flower-like swirls, but no matter how softly the star lamps glimmered gold against the emblazoned pattern it didn’t change their purpose. Their power. Their weight which kept her grounded on the forest floor and stilled the fluttering of her gossamer wings.

Her feet ached. Her throat and eyes burned. Her fingers itched for the bow which had vanished from them nigh a week past. But still she press on, slipping through the forest shadows, ignoring the thorns which tore at her tunic and ripped at her legs. A breeze lifted strands of auburn hair, tossing them into her eyes. She brushed them back, her breath coming in quick heaves.

She had until dawn; she had to reach the clearing. If she did; if the Witnesses were there, they’d take her in until her innocence was proven. Until the chains glinting from her skin were removed and her title of archeress of the forest was returned. Until she could return and save her people from the mysterious darkness closing them in.

Behind her, in the distance, a wolf howled. She shivered, pressing forward. Slowly the sun sank. Slowly she sensed the glimmer of the sun on the horizon.

And then she was there, the clearing opening its welcome arms about her. For a moment she swayed unsteadily, then wearily sank to the clipped turf even as a Witness fluttered into view.

“What do you wish for?” The questioning voice was high, like spring bells.

“Sanctuary.” Her voice broke and for the first time she let her gaze travel up her arm to the brand emblazoning her supposed crime of treason. Tears started to her eyes. It wasn’t true. It wasn’t true. But danger was upon the whole forest and she could do nothing. And it was her fault. “Sanctuary and judgment.”

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Wingmaster

This story is set in Aslaria, my Legends of Light land. The wingmaster idea is based off the Song of the Sword, my current WIP, but this event took place about a hundred years before Song of the Sword.

He should have known. He should have guessed. The finding of the legendary wingmaster’s blade should have given him more than a hint that something was wrong.

But the late spring snow, the early darkness, and the encroaching mist sweeping through the Melody Realm had been enough to deal with. Even drawing on the power of the song in the Melody, it had been all I could do to beat the joy stealing fog back towards the south. It had been an everyday enough occurrence that I should have known the sword was for something else.

Something worse.

But I’d relaxed. I’d attended the celebration like a normal citizen of Aslaria instead of one of the few who knew about, much less could entered, the reflection realm of song. And I’d left the sword in my lodging.

The swift beat of Frithren’s wings during a jubilant dance was the first sign something was terribly wrong.

He’s here.

The words sent ice though my veins and I pulled away into the shadows even as the lamps flickered out. And, under the startled cries, which I knew would soon turn to pleas of fear, I could hear the heavy drumbeat of the traitor’s song.

The traitor. As I dashed into the night, snow falling gently around my, I racked my brains but could come up with no name to couple to the shadow who had been sweeping though the country. A rumor, may thought it was.

I’d thought it was.

Except he was real. And he was here.

I snatched up the wingmaster’s sword, my vision blurring then clarifying as I saw the real realm and the Melody at once. My chest tightened as I glimpsed the mist, seeping in about the castle walls. But there was no time to deal with it now. Summoning the song, I dashed back to the great hall.

Silence met my ears. Silence, mingled with the recent memory of bloodshed and weeping. And the traitor’s faint song.

I choked at the sight. The motionless bodies. The stained floor. The lifeless hall.

I staggered back outside, my sword hanging limply from my hand. Frithren’s wings beat against the air and I turned, lifting my hand for the messenger falcon.

He’s headed south. Frithren declared grimly.

I nodded and swallowed hard, then closed my eyes. The Prince forgive me. I’d been given the sword, and I’d failed before I’d even started. I’d failed, but more would die unless I could stop the shadow. Clenching the sword, I took a deep breath, then turned toward the south.

And I ran. Ran through the night. Though the snow. Though the mist. Though the song. With death behind me, danger ahead, and an oath throbbing though my blood, I ran towards the fulfillment of my doom.

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