the time has come

She woke to the warm kiss of the sun on her cheek and fluttered open her eyes to see that a new day had begun while she was finally getting the restorative sleep her body and mind needed.  She could feel its presence without looking, but she turned her eyes away from the lighted window to search the shadows for the demon anyway.  It was in the far corner of the room, as far from the window as it could be, and only visible as a slightly darker shadow among the remaining traces of dawn’s gloom.

Stretching luxuriously, feeling better than she had since the night she had found herself betrayed by her former apprentice, the sorceress took a minute to relish the energy that coursed through her and the crispness of her rejuvenated mind.  Then the call of further power gently coaxed her from her bed and back into her study.

Standing over her desk, she shuffled the top parchment to the bottom and glanced at the words written on the page that now resided in the primary position.  She half expected the dragon’s laugh to return and the spell to elude her, but she had already passed that test and the spell again dripped easily from her lips as she quickly spoke it aloud.

After the final incantation, her eyes lifted from the page to the demon, who had followed her from her chambers to the study to take position in the corner again, and she watched as it strode forward to bond with her own shadow, cast by the morning light streaming through the window behind her, and stretching across the floor.  It shimmered for a moment as it passed through the sunlight and moved to hide within her shadow and she felt a cool chill as it took its place.

Experimentally she contorted her arms and swayed her body and watched appreciatively as the demon seamlessly followed her erratic movements.  Her new guardian could now follow her wherever she went.  It would be her first line of defense and a secret attacking option should she ever find herself in a dire situation again.  Its power and immortality rivaled those of the dragon as it could not be killed through normal means and could only be parted from her upon her death, at which time it would be sent back to its normal plane, and that was something it did not want to ever happen so it would do everything it could to protect her.

The sorceress smiled as she gazed into the depths of her shadow, and that smile remained even as the dragon’s voice returned to her, “You have done well, witch.  You continue to surprise me, but now that you have begun to conquer the magic I have given you, it is time for you to begin upholding your end of our arrangement, too.  I’m ready to leave my cave.  I’m ready for the world to know true fear again.  Spread the word of my coming.”

terribly right

djmatticus:

I posted a story over at Stories That Must Not Die today, and, as always, would appreciate your feedback… This one was tough for me. Not to write, but to live it, and to live with my decision afterwards.

Originally posted on Stories that Must Not Die:

I did the right thing, the legal thing, the safety conscious thing, and I’ve felt terrible ever since.

She looked scared, and confused, as I pulled my truck in nose-to-nose with her Outback, and I wasn’t surprised that she waived me over as soon as I stepped out into the parking lot.  I noticed she was very close to the car next to her, a Charger, so I went around the back to approach her window.

“I’m sorry, I’ve never done this before, but I’ve somehow locked myself in.”

Her hair was white.  Her skin sagged away from fragile arms.  She had lived many years.  Her voice was small.  It didn’t quiver, but it was full of fear and confusion.  Her eyes begged for me to solve this mystery for her, so she could get her shopping done and continue with her day.  I asked if she had a key…

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swing

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/44/16/bd/4416bd913910cbc6b587601116e642ff.jpg
Image Credit: Christina Fofina

She dangled her delicately swinging legs over the precipice.  A thin plank of ancient wood, strung on both sides by equally ancient rope, and hanging from a branch of an even older oak tree were all that kept her suspended in her perch.  Everything below her was swallowed in a darkness ravenously craving to devour the whole world, but she held no fear of the long drop, the aching cold, the unknown depths, or the certainty of what waited for all her kind at the bottom.

She did not have to look down to see the creeping gloom of death inching closer to her with each passing moment.  She could hear its whispers caressing her ears and calling her home.  It spoke of freedom from pain and responsibility and guilt.  It spoke of promises to be fulfilled and happiness unending.  And she knew that none of its words were lies.  Death was regarded as many things but at the core, unwavering, it was and would always be the truth.

No, she did not look down.  No, she did not let the seduction of her future coax her into rushing to meet it.  Her gaze and focus were solely captivated by the beauty of the stars swirling far above her head.  Her flowing brown hair nestled against her shoulders and back as her chin titled up to take in a wider expanse of the heavens.  Each winking spot of light dancing in her hazel eyes held the potential for another life, another of her kind, waiting to be discovered, and waiting to be loved.  Each swath of glowing chaos painted behind the stars, illuminating the furthest recesses of the night sky, held the potential for thousands upon thousands more of those winking lights.

The stars and galaxies swirled dizzyingly and all she could do was sigh with glee and giggle.  Her wings flexed instinctively as her muscles twitched.  Rainbows, born of moonbeams, sprouted from the shimmering membranes and fell to confuse the darkness below.  She kicked her legs and the plank creaked into motion, slowly at first, and then faster and faster until her tiny frame was a blur of sparkles spanning the full breadth of the swing’s reach.

Pumping her legs one final time she rushed forward and released her grip on the rope.  Her body sailed over the edge and she closed her eyes as the air held her in its loving embrace.  It was calm, and peaceful, and a freedom she had never truly known.

She did not fear death.  She feared loneliness.

Opening her eyes she looked to the stars again and began to flap her tiny wings.  She didn’t know how far she could make it before her strength gave out and she fell, but that didn’t matter.  Falling was inevitable.  But, before then, she had to see how far she could get.  She had to try and find someone else like her.

the dragon’s gift

The dragon’s laugh echoed in her memory, a swirl of pain and beauty, and none of her normal concentration tricks would dislodge it so she could get to work.  Finally giving it up as a lost cause she retired from her study to seek respite in her chambers in the form of sleep.  Even then she couldn’t break free from the laugh as the words to the spells she had been studying swam in front of her vision, she reached for them but they continued to elude her grasp and the sinister chortle of the beast raged behind it all.

It had warned her before they began that the spells might be beyond her and she ran the risk of losing her mind if she couldn’t control the magic.  She had known the risks, but had remained confident in her abilities while rationalizing that the potential gain of knowledge and power was worth the worst outcome of the potential risks.

Tossing and turning, tangled in her sheets, sweat dripping from her brow and leaking from her pores to puddle under her knees, elbows, and neck, the sorceress regretted nothing.  She could feel the madness edging closer to wrap its arms around her mind in a loving embrace with each passing hour she went without sleep, and she regretted nothing.  The painful bellowing laughter grew in intensity each new day that dawned where she hadn’t slept, and hadn’t yet mastered any of the spells, and, still, she regretted nothing.

Heaving herself from the bed, the sheets falling to the smooth, cold floor, the sorceress walked down the hall to the study and she bent over the desk to gaze at the sprawled spell she had been studying.  The beast had entered her mind, with her permission though they both knew it had the power to have done so even if she hadn’t allowed it, and used her hand to quickly scrawl a half-dozen spells upon scraps of parchment she carried within one of ever-present pouches of spell components and other odds and ends.  Then the dragon had begun laughing, a moment before leaving her mind and sending her on her way to study the ancient magic.  Days had passed since then, and she had yet to conquer a single spell.

The laugh distracted her and the words swirled on the page.  In her exhaustion she let emotion take control and anger coursed through her.  She cursed herself for lacking the discipline to focus.  She cursed the dragon for thinking so little of her to mock her with its laugh.  She cursed the laugh itself, and the rage sparked the fire within her.  The laugh subsided and the words stilled.

The sorceress spoke them without thinking, without hesitation, for she knew she had the power to wield the spell in that moment.  A dull pain tugged at her consciousness as the magic took its toll on her, but compared to the relief she felt at finally being free of the dragon’s laugh, she barely noticed the cost of the spell, and when the black doorway opened on the other side of the room she cackled in triumph.

The darkness shifted and a segment pulled free from the doorway to hover between her and the portal she had opened.  It was the darkest black she had ever seen.  It was the embodiment of plaguing fears on a starless night.  It was a demon, bound to her, and ready to obey her commands or it would have devoured her the moment it came through to her plane.

an origin story

While discussing dragons, Trent told me to write him a fantasy… and this is where my mind went.  If I weren’t already in the midst of several other projects I would say that this could be the start of a larger story, but, alas, I am already in the midst of several other stories that I need to finish, including my new weekly story being published on Thursdays.  But, perhaps, I will come back to this one day and see what happens…  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this read.  It is a bit longer than my normal flash fiction pieces, but, origin stories always tend to be a bit long.

…..

The gods crowded around their masterpiece, elbowing each other and shuffling to get a better view, caught up in awe at the world they had created from specks of blood and dust among the void of chaos.  It was perfect.  It was flawed.  It was beautiful, despite its ugliness.

A general hush fell upon the gathered throng as the god of light broke away to address them.  “We need a champion for our world.  A guardian.  Something from which legends shall one day emerge.  Who here will bestow it with a gift?”

They all would, and the god of light knew this, but he still made eye contact with each of them.  Intensely penetrating eyes ensured they all knew their place and their purpose.  Only the god of balance, commonly referred to as the historian, and the god of darkness, equals in stature and power to the god of light, did not cower under the stare.

One by one the lesser gods strode forward and gave of themselves to help build the protector of their new world.  The god of fire chipped a spark to give it a burning soul to be called upon when needed.  The god of nature wrapped the spark in form and shape taken from all corners so it could dwell anywhere it chose.  The god of wind gave it flight so it could travel the world as it pleased.  The god of earth gave it scales harder than the stones of the world so it would be hard to kill.  The god of the sea gave it a long tail as a rudder to steer it in trouble times.

Days passed and the creature’s presence and power grew as the minor gods gave their gifts, and then those gods in the next echelon gave theirs as well, until only the most powerful three remained.  Again, the god of light strode forward and the crowd immediately hushed.  “I give our guardian long life.  It will not be truly immortal, but shall count years as the other creatures of the world count days.  It will gain wisdom through its long life to understand that the repercussions of the actions it takes with its considerable power can ripple through time to impact multiple generations.  This will ensure that it thinks carefully before acting and uses its knowledge and power wisely.”

After an initial rumbling of shock that the god of light would grant any of their creatures something akin to godhood, a murmur of approval spread among the gathered gods.  It was actually a burden of responsibility the god of light had bestowed, rather than a gift of long life.  Their whisperings were quickly silenced, as the god of darkness stepped into the clearly next to the god of light.

Depthless midnight eyes gazed upon the spinning orb, and a sinister smile spread across pale lips.  “I give the gift of magic.”

Shouts of shock and alarm spread across the void and those gods who would not have their powers threatened by any mortal creature surged forward to demand the god of darkness recant its gift.  However, the god of balance stepped into the clearing with hand raised, and while the discord did not die away, the stirrings ceased.

“Much has been said today.  Much has been gifted to this creature, this guardian of our world, our beloved jewel.  Immortality and magic are indeed marvelous and dangerous gifts to bestow upon any creature who would walk the realms beyond our void, but none of you need worry about abuse of that power, the balance shall be kept.  Legends shall be spoken of this beast, this flying monster of fiery breath and razor claws, this gentle protector of glade and mountain, this mighty sorcerer and hoarder.  Its stories shall be passed among the roots of the trees of the world, from shore to shore among the waves, and tossed along the peaks while carried by the gusts that live at the high points of the world.  Yes, as long as other mortal creatures walk the world, these stories shall be passed through the years with them, but that is the only place this creature shall ever exist, for it will never walk the world.  My gift is to make it a legend.”

Bedlam ensued as the void filled with enraged battle.  The lesser gods were incensed that they had given so much of themselves to something that would never live.  The two other major gods smiled coyly at the wisdom of the decision before entering the fray for posturing purposes only.  The god of balance took the attacks in stride, knowing balance would prevail in the end, as was its job, as was inevitable.  Eventually the gods grew tired of fighting and slipped away to their hidden places among the remaining debris in the void, and the world was left spinning, beautiful and flawed, with only the god of balance watching over it.

One day, a hunter, having climbed a mountain in search of the goats that dwelt among the rocks near the peaks, sought shelter in a cave from a storm that had threatened to toss him to his death.  There, huddled, shivering, and frightened, the hunter saw drawings carved in the walls.  The drawings told the story of a magnificent beast, wonderful and terrifying at the same time.  When the storm passed the hunter returned to the village and spread the stories from neighbor to neighbor.

When asked what the beast that could summon fire from its belly and fly like a bird was called, the hunter didn’t know, but a whispered voice gave the answer, and the hunter responded immediately, “dragon.”

The gift finally complete, the god of balance joined the other gods in hiding, waiting, and watching.  The god chuckled to itself, wondering at the vastness of what had just been set in motion, and wondering which other gods would still be watching when the eventuality came to pass.  For, the god of darkness had bestowed the beast with magic, all of the magic, and therefore, if enough people upon the world began to believe in the legend of the dragon, the magic could and would feed off that energy and the dragon would rise from their dreams to fly in the skies over their hovels.

The dragon would rule the world for a time, when that happened, but balance would reign in the end, for with the rise of the dragon would also come the rise of the dragon hunters.

Whatever it will be…

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