Category: my writing

[TT] Hunters’ Folly

[TT] Hunters’ Folly

The first one to disappear had been
the one bringing up the rear.

One moment, their merry rogue had
been laughing and joking, knives held loosely in hand, and then, when they’d
all turned around, she’d vanished like a puff of smoke, silent.

Then things really began to fall apart.

Fear had become a near-constant
companion, hovering over them like a dark storm cloud through their paltry
meals and watch shifts. There had been five of them, and now there were only
four.

The leader, Leander, was the first
to lose his calm; his eyes darted through the tree branches, searching for
something; one hand was raking through his hair, and the other was on the hilt
of his blade; when Gladen snuck up behind him to retrieve something, she’d
nearly been skewered.

And the man’s paranoia only
worsened come nightfall. He claimed he could hear branches snapping, distant
shrieks of pain and fear, hysterical laughter and inconsolable sobs that broke
the quiet of the night like glass.

They’d been sent by the Crown to
hunt for and dispose of a kingdom-wide threat, about which they knew little.
But all of them had been desperate for money, fame, glory. Backed into a corner
and blinded by the fruits of this toxic expedition, all of them, one by one,
had agreed.

And now, Leander was certain that
they were all in line for the block.

Death had never scared him before;
he’d been a mercenary and soldier before this crazy mission. But the thing that
terrified him the most was the unknown. How, exactly, would he and his allies
die? There was no way of knowing, for no one had ever returned to tell tales.
Night was beginning to fall, and all he wanted was to get somewhere safe.

**

Gladen looked at Leander from her
position on her mare, struggling to hide a frown. It was true, that Samara had
disappeared, but being a rogue, her vanishing was not something so out of the
ordinary. But their fearless leader was convinced that something much more wicked
was at hand.

As they found a clearing to bed
down in, Gladen found that she was tired of the endless litany. She would never
admit that she was frightened, even if at times throughout this job she was so
wired that she felt like she was going to jump out of her skin.

They had a simple meal of bread,
cheese, and thin rice porridge, and went to bed; at least, everyone except
Tessa, who sat next to the fire, a book open on her knees and her staff close
at hand.

Gladen fell asleep quickly;
sleeping on the ground with little warmth was nothing new for her.

**

She was awoken by a harsh, guttural
screech, and before she was really conscious, her fingers closed around her
weapons, a razor-sharp set of chakrams, and she dressed as quickly as she
could. There were the sounds of heavy footsteps, heavy breathing, and the drip
of something thick and wet. It hadn’t been raining when they’d gone to bed.

What in the gods’ names was going
on out there?

The screams came again, and Gladen
steeled her courage, throwing herself out of her tent and letting loose a
battle cry of her own. But she was utterly unprepared for what awaited her
outside in their campsite.

**

Blood, bone, and limb lay scattered
on the cold, hard ground, the pieces of her friends staring up at her like some
grisly, grotesque joke; all the fight had left her body.

Who, or what, had done this to her
friends? Why had they left her?

“Who did this?!” She roared into
the night, and she heard a low, hoarse chuckle that deepened into a growl.

She spun around, chakrams raised.

“I do hope, for your sake, that
those are silver, pretty girl,” A female voice floated over the trees like
music, and then there was a pair of luminous violet eyes in the dark. Blinding
agony, like she was being ripped apart, and then nothingness.

**

(IP) Journey Through the Dark

(IP) Journey Through the Dark

               They’d
reached the ruined abbey just as the sun had begun to set and turn everything a
bloody scarlet.

               The
party was made up of three people, a woman holding a lantern astride a horse,
and two men walking in front of her, one holding a bow and arrow and the other
leaning heavily on a twisted yew staff.

The abbey was so quiet that only
their footsteps and the horse’s feet clop
clop clopping
on the stone floor broke the silence, each one crashing down
like a rockslide onto a hill.

The woman frowned, one hand wrapped
in her mount’s long, dark mane. She wasn’t sure why, but it felt as though
something was hiding in the dark shadows. She shook herself mentally; she wasn’t
a child in a brick and thatch hut anymore, sitting in front of a fire while her
grandmother told stories of the past. She was far too old for such fear to be
sitting upon her shoulders.

Her companions, meanwhile, were
keeping ahead of the horse, silent and watchful.

The archer crept through the
shadows, blinking as he passed through the light of the dying sun, hands poised
on his bow, his ears perked up for any out of ordinary sounds. They weren’t
expecting anyone; this abbey had been falling apart for years. In fact, no one
in the ragtag little group knew just why they’d been sent here.

The man with the staff was trying
to match the archer step for step, but he was impaired by a deep limp. He said
nothing, but his teeth were clenched, sweat beading up on his brow like tiny,
liquid salt crystals.

As they moved further into the
building, a chill formed in the air, freezing the sweat on the mage’s brow, and
the archer shuddered, caught by surprise.

A breeze chased the sudden dip in
temperature, making the golden flame within the lantern gutter and dance,
painting sinuous shadows upon the stone walls.

“What’s going on?” The woman
gasped, and her horse spooked, rearing and bucking her off; she landed on the
stone floor with a nasty crunch, and
there was a flash of white light in her vision; the pain was such that it felt
like her rib cage had imploded.

For one terrible fraction of a second,
she thought that she was dying.

But the spell was broken by the
horse turning and fleeing, its frightened cries magnified so that it felt like
there was a whole herd of them running out of this haunted place.

“Are you all right?” The mage
asked, limping over to her and gracelessly kneeling beside her, as best he
could.

The archer stood in front of them, fitting
an arrow on the drawstring of his bow and pulling it quickly taut.

The woman nodded, though she had
quickly grown pale, and she was holding her ankle, her lips drawn into a thin
line; her companions suspected that she was biting back a scream.

“Don’t worry, we’re going to get
you help, somehow,” The mage murmured, gently smoothing back her hair.

The cold that surrounded them only
intensified, and a mocking, high laugh sounded, echoing off of the abbey’s
stone walls.

“I wouldn’t be so sure of that,
foolish little mortals, for you have trespassed in my territory. Bid each other
goodbye, for you will not leave this place alive.”

**

(WP) The Mistress at the Funeral

(WP) The Mistress at the Funeral

               The funeral home was packed, heavy with the scent of lilies, roses, and more than one fine perfume.

               The deceased’s wife stood beside the casket, a single tear running down one perfectly contoured cheek, one hand clutching at the sapphire necklace her husband had given her for their ten-year anniversary just last week, the other held in the hand of her best friend, who had pulled her close and rubbed her back, gentle and soothing but ultimately stoic.

               “How could this have happened, Amelia? I mean, just last week was our anniversary, and he’s been taken from me,” Lucy murmured into her friend’s shoulder, and in answer, the other woman stroked her hair, making quiet, shushing noises.

               “I’m so sorry, Luce,” Amelia said softly, kissing the top of her head.

“That’s all I can say, is I’m sorry.”

The words sounded hollow to Lucy’s ears, paltry in comparison to the enormity of her loss. Her best friend, the one who’d pieced her back together when she was broken, cheered her on when she was doubtful, called her out when she was wrong.

He was just there and gone. Vanished in a screech of metal, a flash of fire, a phone call cut short.

He’d been laughing, saying that he would be home soon, that he loved her. Oh, how she’d loved his laugh. And then there was a crash on the other end of the line, and the phone had gone dead.

And then the police had shown up at the door, telling her that her husband had died on the way home when another car had smashed into him, and her world had careened chaotically off of its axis.

“Lucy? Lucy, are you all right? Lucy!”

She was broken out of her reverie by Amelia calling her name, and she shook her head to clear it.

“I… I’m fine, Mia. Well, as fine as one can possibly be in such circumstances,” She replied, sounding, for a moment, like her old self again.

“Who is that?” Amelia replied, her brows drawing together in her confusion.

Lucy had no idea just who she was talking about, and she followed her friend’s gaze.

There was a tall, willowy young woman clothed all in black, standing at the door, and she looked even more distraught than Lucy herself. She had long, dark hair scraped into a chignon at the back of her head, and large, dark eyes that reminded her of deep pools. She also noticed the large ring on the woman’s left hand, a bright trio of emeralds wrapped around gold and diamonds.

Lucy didn’t know why, but all over again, she felt nauseated. She had no idea who that was. But whomever she was, she was a bad omen, a sign of more terrible things to come.

**

(IP) Many Are the Dead

(IP) Many are the Dead

The sky was bloodred, painting the new snow on the ground a rusty cinnamon.

The warrior and his familiar, a painted steed with a white mane, stood in the center of the wreckage, the only sound breaking the heavy silence the huffing of the beasts no one had bothered to pillage.

Gone were the sounds of marching, the beating of drums and the screams of the dying.

When they’d been sent here by their general, they’d been expecting slaughter and bloodshed. But everyone was gone, down to the last man, woman, and child. The only thing left now was the heavy, carrion stench of death and vengeance.

The warrior’s stomach turned. Though he was used to war, he could not fathom just how senseless this all was. The general had demanded that he travel to the mountains and find the battleground, and to scavenge what they could from it.

“I hate to do this,” She’d said, in a quiet, raspy voice that bespoke of years of tobacco and other vices, “But loss is necessary, and we must make of it what we will.”

She’d set a cup of tea in front of him, and he’d nodded to her in thanks.

“Go to the mountains with your familiar and see what happened there. Please. Those people deserve the truth, the gods see them home safely. Of course, I will give you supplies. Be careful. You never know who may be watching.” Her already thin lips flattened into a grim, white line, and he knew she was thinking of The Devourer.

It was a black shadow that had descended over their land, able to hide in plain sight and work deadly magic; its presence was both omnipotent and unknowable, even to those who worked their whole lives to dismantle its iron grip on the country.

The horse tossed her head, her hooves meeting the ground with terrible force, and she turned to look at the warrior, dark eyes glistening with human knowledge.

I can smell The Devourer here. But I’m certain that it did not come itself.

“So it was working through someone,” Her companion replied, more statement than question, and the horse nodded, whickering as her head bobbed up and down.

“I was afraid of that,” He sighed, running a hand through his hair, his breath forming a white cloud in the cold, crystalline air.

How did one catch something that constantly changed forms, that hid everywhere, was impossible to detect? It was as impossible as trying to catch smoke, or hold water in one’s cupped hands.

“Come,” He bade at last, taking the horse’s reins. He would have to send word that he required help after all—there was no way that his horse could transport the buffalo that had somehow survived the onslaught.

“Let’s get this over with,” He murmured; the cold had seeped down to his marrow, his heart a frozen block of ice in his chest.

All of this wasted, another wave in The Devourer’s reign of terror.

With the military’s resources shrinking daily, it seemed impossible to hold on to the humanity, or, what was left of it. But the General, and every soldier under her, was depending on him.

Giving up simply was not an option.

(IP) The Great Escape

thestorychaser:

(IP) The Great Escape

Darkness descended upon the land, blanketing it under the cover of dark, swirling storm clouds.

The snow-capped mountains ringed the crumbling stone fortress, a gray stone barrier that protected it and the mines that went down deep into the mountains, built on the backs of the broken and downtrodden. Still, the castle is a buzzing hive of activity, even this close to evening. Servants traveled the halls inside, often in pairs and small groups, heads close together as they whispered to one another; if one looked closely, they’d see dark, red-rimmed eyes, pale faces, bitten lips and torn clothing.

A hooded figure slipped through the crowded hallways, unnoticed, head lowered in deference, heading toward the dungeons. The chaos of the castle is such that no one even gives the figure a sideways glance. That was good; the interloper intended it that way.

She’d come all this way for a reason, and it would not do to stand out. She needed to blend in, though it took everything in her power to stay quiet. The rage inside of her chest burned bright, a flame that would not be doused by anything but vengeance, retribution. If she could, she would burn this building down to the foundations. It had been built on the backs of her people, and many others, people that weren’t rich and privileged and able to hide their darkest secrets: anything to hold their positions. To profit from every immoral thing that they’d ever committed. She had to swallow to prevent her gorge from rising, to hold in the screams of frustration that were building inside of her throat, longing to be loosed. But none of that mattered now; she’d come to free the prisoners that were rotting in the dungeons.

Her priority now had to be to get them out of the castle alive, for fear that the Queen’s Guard would spot them and murder them where they stood. She forced herself to take a deep breath; she had to stay calm. If she slipped up, if she made even the smallest error, it wouldn’t just be her life at risk.

And she hadn’t taken on this mission to lose it. She’d sacrificed everything to become a member of the Resistance; her station, her lover, her family, and almost her sanity. She’d come too far to turn tail and run now.

She found the staircase that led down into the dungeons and quickly but carefully made the descent, the stench of mold and mildew hitting her face like a blow. She put one arm over her face and used her free hand to guide her way down the steps, wincing when her fingers met wet moss. Her eyes streamed; the awful smell of rotting flesh seemed to sink into her cloak, hair, and skin, and she swallowed, resisting the urge to gag.

At last, she reached the bottom floor, and she hurried to the cells, noticing more than one shadow curled up in the eerie light of the torches on the walls, tucked into sconces. She heard someone coughing, hacking as though they were choking, and she approached slowly, looking for a cap of bright red hair.

When she found the right cell, she knelt in front of the door, shoving the key into the lock with trembling hands.

A wasted little girl sat against the stone wall, arms wrapped around her knees. Her fine gown had once been white, but now it was black with sick and other filth. Her face was deathly pale, her eyes bright amber hollows in the dim light, and her long hair was matted and tangled, full of sticks, blood, and leaves. She looked up at the hooded figure, full lips parted.

“Who are you?”

“I’m a friend. We’ll talk later, when I get you out of here, Princess.”

**

Hey, guys! My latest short story, The Great Escape, inspired by an image prompt on Reddit! I hope you like it! Feedback is encouraged and appreciated! Feel free to like and reblog, just make sure you credit me as the original source! I love you all, thanks for your support! <3

(IP) The Great Escape

(IP) The Great Escape

Darkness descended upon the land, blanketing it under the cover of dark, swirling storm clouds.

The snow-capped mountains ringed the crumbling stone fortress, a gray stone barrier that protected it and the mines that went down deep into the mountains, built on the backs of the broken and downtrodden. Still, the castle is a buzzing hive of activity, even this close to evening. Servants traveled the halls inside, often in pairs and small groups, heads close together as they whispered to one another; if one looked closely, they’d see dark, red-rimmed eyes, pale faces, bitten lips and torn clothing.

A hooded figure slipped through the crowded hallways, unnoticed, head lowered in deference, heading toward the dungeons. The chaos of the castle is such that no one even gives the figure a sideways glance. That was good; the interloper intended it that way.

She’d come all this way for a reason, and it would not do to stand out. She needed to blend in, though it took everything in her power to stay quiet. The rage inside of her chest burned bright, a flame that would not be doused by anything but vengeance, retribution. If she could, she would burn this building down to the foundations. It had been built on the backs of her people, and many others, people that weren’t rich and privileged and able to hide their darkest secrets: anything to hold their positions. To profit from every immoral thing that they’d ever committed. She had to swallow to prevent her gorge from rising, to hold in the screams of frustration that were building inside of her throat, longing to be loosed. But none of that mattered now; she’d come to free the prisoners that were rotting in the dungeons.

Her priority now had to be to get them out of the castle alive, for fear that the Queen’s Guard would spot them and murder them where they stood. She forced herself to take a deep breath; she had to stay calm. If she slipped up, if she made even the smallest error, it wouldn’t just be her life at risk.

And she hadn’t taken on this mission to lose it. She’d sacrificed everything to become a member of the Resistance; her station, her lover, her family, and almost her sanity. She’d come too far to turn tail and run now.

She found the staircase that led down into the dungeons and quickly but carefully made the descent, the stench of mold and mildew hitting her face like a blow. She put one arm over her face and used her free hand to guide her way down the steps, wincing when her fingers met wet moss. Her eyes streamed; the awful smell of rotting flesh seemed to sink into her cloak, hair, and skin, and she swallowed, resisting the urge to gag.

At last, she reached the bottom floor, and she hurried to the cells, noticing more than one shadow curled up in the eerie light of the torches on the walls, tucked into sconces. She heard someone coughing, hacking as though they were choking, and she approached slowly, looking for a cap of bright red hair.

When she found the right cell, she knelt in front of the door, shoving the key into the lock with trembling hands.

A wasted little girl sat against the stone wall, arms wrapped around her knees. Her fine gown had once been white, but now it was black with sick and other filth. Her face was deathly pale, her eyes bright amber hollows in the dim light, and her long hair was matted and tangled, full of sticks, blood, and leaves. She looked up at the hooded figure, full lips parted.

“Who are you?”

"I’m a friend. We’ll talk later, when I get you out of here, Princess.”

**

(WP) For the Love of the Water

(I was torn between the ocean and heights. So I decided to choose the ocean! I hope you all like it!)

Sometimes I wonder if I would be more at home on the water than on land. Something about water soothes me, the waves caressing the shore a lullaby that sent me off to sleep every night. It’s the first thing I see when I wake up, and the last thing I see before I go to bed. Its presence is constant but ever-changing, and despite knowing just how brutal it can be, I can’t not love it. Rivers, lakes, the ocean that surrounds the planet; all of it has been as necessary to me as oxygen and food. But the ocean holds a special place in my heart; if I could, I’d never leave it.

Sometimes I like to dream about how I’m a pirate, conquering the seas and chasing the elusive promise of treasure. But for now, I’ll just have to be okay with getting a degree in marine biology. I rise from my bed and bite back a yawn, changing out of my pajamas to a pair of black basketball shorts and a plain black tank top. I walk to the window, feeling that familiar call as I gaze out toward the beach. If I hadn’t slept in this morning, I would’ve gone surfing. I’ve always been a morning person, but since learning how to work with the water, I’ve often rose with the dawn, eager to get my fix before I had to start my day.

The other side of the bed is cold; Teddy must have gone to work already. I walk down the stairs and jog through the kitchen, grabbing a granola bar on the way out. I slip my flip-flops on and hop in the car, making sure to stop for iced coffee on the way to the university; a morning person I may be, but I also need fuel. Armed with caffeine and a breakfast sandwich, I set it on the passenger’s seat and park hastily, devouring my breakfast in a few quick bites. Wiping my mouth with a napkin and putting on makeup, I grab my bag out of the backseat and sling it over my shoulder, walking inside of the school.

My first class, Earth Science, hasn’t started yet, and I take a seat by the window, gazing out toward the ocean as if compelled. I can’t help it; whenever I’m outside, my first instinct is to find the nearest body of water; it just makes me feel safe.

My parents used to despair over it, this mysterious pull to the water; more often not, I was scheming to steal away from whatever I was doing, sleepwalking through life in order to answer the call of it. No one has ever understood it, but that’s all right. I barely do myself. But if it went away, I wouldn’t be who I am. I couldn’t imagine my life, my heart and soul, without it; it’s part of my deepest foundations.

And I wouldn’t change it for anything.

**

(WP) The Lovers

(WP) The Lovers

Gather around the fire, children, and let your Auntie tell you the stories of our people.

They say that the greatest lovers of all time were also the greatest warriors.

They were the first of our people, and the rest of our legacy was born from them. They traveled across every landscape, through bitter snow,  sheets of sleet,  blinding rain, scorching deserts, thick, dense forests, until they came to the coasts and saw the ocean for the first time. Weather-beaten, tired, and hungry, Calandra and Zamir were forced to build a raft from the trees of the forest, only big enough for themselves until they could cross the seas and settle somewhere permanently.

The journey across the sea took many days and nights, and Calandra’s stomach grew larger, more distended. She told her husband that she was expecting a child, and Zamir’s joy was so boundless that he roared his thanks to the gods of the sun and sky, happy that his lineage was to continue. But underneath his happiness, shadows of doubt and fear lurked; he feared for his wife and unborn child; they had to get across the sea and settle as soon as possible.

 As if summoned by Zamir’s voiceless worries, the sea began to churn and boil, and shadows began to circle their raft, the clouds moving in so quickly that even the great Sun was blotted out; the sky was soon as black as the skirts of the Night’s dresses, and the raft soon became lost in the tumult of the salty water.

Zamir tried his best to take the raft to safety, but he could barely see the horizon through the cold, driving rain. A tall, dark shadow rose through the waves, revealing a large, pointed snout and huge, glowing red eyes, with the hard green scales of a crocodile; the head bent down on a long, scaly neck, and a cool breeze brushed over Zamir.

“Who dares to seek passage through my ocean without a summons?” A deep, male voice boomed; it crashed over the couple like a violent rockslide. “I am Necalli, guardian of these waters, and I demand tribute! Otherwise, you and the female will die, your bodies food for my children!”

Zamir was so struck with terror that he just stared up at the sea god, his face paper white and his hands trembling. He hadn’t known that anything but fish swam in these waters, and the fear that struck his noble heart had stolen his voice. So it was that Calandra stepped forward, tipping her face up to look at the god.

“Our greatest apologies, Great and Merciful One!” She called, shouting to be heard above the insistent voice of the storm. “We did not mean to trespass, and we mean you no harm! We only ask that we pass through your home without incident. You see,” She said, putting her hands on her stomach, “We are expecting a child soon, and I wish to give birth on land! Is there anything we might offer you to lessen our slight against your greatness?”

At those words, the storm vanished as quickly as it had begun; the clouds parted, and the sun shone on the god’s long, sleek body, which fully rose out of the water, as much to sun itself as to threaten. But Calandra stood her ground, trembling but otherwise not showing her fear

.“What could you two puny humans have to offer me that I do not already have?” He crowed, leaning down to fix one beady eye on the warrior. Zamir stood beside his beloved, shame rendering him still speechless. How could he be so useless at defending his wife’s honor?

“We will serve you for the rest of our days, O Great Necalli,” replied Calandra smoothly, bowing her head. “We promise that once we are settled fully on land, there will be a temple built in your honor, and all will know of your generosity and kindness, if you’d let us go.”

“How do I know that you and your spineless husband will keep up your end of the bargain?” The being rejoined, showing off a mouthful of sharp, bloody fangs. Calandra opened her mouth to answer, but before she could, Zamir stepped forward, struck with an idea.

“We will name our firstborn child after you! A robust, strapping boy who will know just how powerful and mighty the guardian of the sea is!”“So the man speaks at last! I was beginning to worry that you’d been struck dumb by my size and stature. Very well, human warriors. I will accompany you to land, and once you are settled and the child is born, I will return to make sure you made good on your promise.”

So the god of the ocean guided our people to this cluster of islands, where they made our home. The temple still stands today, and the son of The Lovers became the first priest of the god Necalli. In exchange, he was given mighty powers: visions, strength beyond measure, the gift of controlling storms, and the ability to read the waves as well as any scroll. The Lovers became the first chief and rulers of our tribe, and our line continued to grow after them, as more people came across the oceans and settled. Their stories are still told through our shamans, priests and priestesses, and magic workers, but that is the first story to ever be told of our people.

** 

(WP) Humanity’s Last Hope

(WP) Humanity’s Last Hope

The coppery iron tang of blood permeates the air as I walk around the bodies of the fallen, my brothers and sisters, and the animal shrieks of the enemy shatter the silence, with a steady beat of their footsteps coming toward me. This is everything that we trained for, and though I am acquainted with Death, I never imagined that I would be finishing the final battle alone.

The outer ring of the city, that walls that guard The Capitol, have crumbled, crushed to dust by the demon horde, all the work of our ancestors gone in an instant. We’ve done everything in our power to prepare, and still it isn’t enough.

Maybe it never was to begin with. Perhaps we never had a chance of victory at all. But I won’t just lie down and let the monsters win. If I’m going to go out, I’m going to make damn sure that I take as many demons and hellspawn with me as I possibly can.

The berserker rage that I’ve been taught to tap into threatens to take hold, and my vision begins to film scarlet, as I think of everyone who died in this battle. The instructors, the younger kids, and my own class, slain in less than the space of a finger snap. Hopelessness threatens to drown me, locking an iron grip around my throat, and at last, I open my mouth and let myself vocalize my loss; by the time that I’m finished, my throat is raw, ripped to shreds from unshed tears.

“YOU WANT A FIGHT?! COME GET ME, YOU DEMONIC BASTARDS! FREE LUNCH!”

At my summons, some of the demons fall out of line, heads swiveling to find the source of the noise.

Leading the pack is a creature that is an unholy marriage between a cobra and a human woman, poison-green scales glinting in the dying sunlight. It’s close to nighttime, and without any backup, throwing myself into a huge group of Hell’s worst lineup is nothing less than suicide, but I can’t say that I don’t welcome it. What’s the point of living on if everyone I love is gone?

She hisses, fangs bared into a bloody grin, forked tongue tasting the air. Her slit yellow eyes are upon me, and soon her comrades get the same idea and begin to follow.

Showtime.

I pull out the first weapon I can get out of the holsters on my back, a pair of short scythes sharpened to wicked points. I throw one of them, end over end, and it lands in the snake-woman’s skull with a nasty crunch, the blade sticking out of her head as her screams, high-pitched and full of pain, die; she melts into a black puddle of ooze and ichor, and I’m running, flying, retrieving the weapon from her body.

It’s a mistake to turn my back, though, because soon I’m surrounded. No matter; with the adrenaline pumping through me and my rage making me strike true, I can do it all the way until sundown. Or I die. Whichever comes first.

A wolf-man runs at me on all fours, howling to its pack, but I jump, reaching up for a light pole and pulling myself up on top of it. I stand above the teeming, looming evil before me, and I put my scythes back where they belong. Something more long range is suited from up here.

Even as my rage and loss bubble up inside of me, I take comfort in the fact of my training; I know what to do with my eyes closed. I was meant for this life, and even if I die, I can go to my grave satisfied that at least I tried my hardest.

There’s a chorus of vicious, angry snarls, and soon the demons get the bright idea to try and follow me up here.

Maniacal laughter pours from my lips, unable to be contained any longer, and that’s my only accompaniment to this insane symphony as I take out a spear that’s sharp and pointed like a harpoon, with a glittering silver tip. I let fly and laugh when blood splatters all over the pole and the ground.

But soon I am overrun, my laughter is replaced by screams of agony, and the only thing that I see is the dark cloud of evil that is descending from the sky.

** 

(WP) The Goblin Horde

The first time that my parents told me that goblins stole naughty children away, I must’ve been six or seven. But these goblins were as distant to me as Bigfoot, or the dreaded monsters that hid under my bed or in dark closets. And even if I had believed, it wouldn’t have mattered. I was a good kid. My parents had treated me like I was practically an adult, and in return for their honesty and respect, I’d wanted to make them proud. It was the least I could’ve done for the two who raised me.

But now it was three days before my eighteenth birthday, and my best friend, Scott, was trying to talk me into accompanying him to a party that Friday, one of the last of the school year.

“Come on, Ruben. It’s almost your birthday, and then you’ll be an adult. I say you enjoy your last three days of freedom. What could go wrong?” He grinned at me, bright brown eyes glinting with mischief. “You’ve never even been to a party. And there will be girls! And alcohol!”

I laughed. “You say that like it’s not a recipe for disaster, Scott.”

“You deserve to have a little fun, Rue. You’re already on the fast track to being an adult. What’s the harm?”

“Okay, okay!” I said, holding my hands up in silent surrender. “You win. I’ll go.”

“Yes! I’ll be here to pick you up. Around nine? And don’t tell your parents. I don’t think there’s gonna be any parents there.”

“I don’t really like lying to them, Scott.”

“This is the first time you’ve done it. It’ll be fine. Consider tonight a crash course in being a teenager.”

“All right, fine. I’ll see you later.”

**

I stood in front of my mirror, frowning. How did one dress for a high school party? I scratched my head, then forced myself to put my hands back at my sides; I’d mess up my hair if I kept fiddling with it. I’d chosen a nice pair of jeans and a black muscle shirt under an open plaid button-up. I’d ask my mother what she thought, but Scott had made me swear not to say anything; my dinner churned in my stomach at the thought.

I heard a beep from outside and grabbed my wallet, walking out of my room and down the hall into the living room. My mother was sitting in an armchair, her head bent over a book; my father was in the kitchen, making himself a highball.

“And just where are you off to?” Mom asked, and I stopped; I should’ve known that I wouldn’t get away without an explanation.

“Scott’s house,” I replied, giving her the first answer that came into my head.

“Are you staying the night? You don’t have a bag with you,” She said, a faint smile on her lips.

“Um… I have some stuff at his house, Mom.”

“All right. Make sure you come back in the morning, okay? It’s your birthday weekend, and your father and I want to spend time with you, all right?”

“Yes, Mom.” Waving at her over my shoulder, I ran out the door before she could call me out on my lies, the first ones I’d ever told.

Scott leaned over and opened the car door for me, his grin so wide it took up the whole lower half of his face, his cheeks flushed and eyes bright with excitement.

“You ready, Rue?”

“As ready as I’m gonna be.”

“Question: Why do you act like you’re being tortured? It’s a party! You’re supposed to be excited!”

“I’m more nervous than anything else,” I replied, smoothing down the front of my shirt, my fingers trembling.

“You have nothing to be nervous about. Just stick with me, and you’ll be fine.”

**

When we arrived at the house, the party was already in full swing.

Music was playing, so loudly that my ears rang and the floor shook; whatever the beat was, it was bass-heavy, and I was feeling it. The house was packed with bodies pressed close together, and the tables had been pushed back to form a makeshift dance floor. There was even a strobe light, giving the house a nightclub kind of feel.

Scott led the way, elbowing his way through the crowd to clear a path for us. He kind of reminded me of a politician, shaking hands and giving hugs all around; for a moment, I was sick with envy over his ease. He seemed so at home, even in this frenzied atmosphere.

“Come on, let’s get you a drink!” He called, holding my wrist so he didn’t lose me in the crush. After what seemed like an age, we made it to the kitchen, which was mercifully quiet. An array of different alcohol lined the island: tequila, bottles of wine and vodka, whiskey, and an endless variety of beer.

What did one even choose when they didn’t typically drink?

“Here, I’ll make you a screwdriver. Or would you rather have a vodka cranberry?”

“Surprise me,” I replied, leaning against the island, trying to quiet the unease that had settled like a weight inside of my chest.

Scott handed me a glass of red liquid, and a straw. “Drink up, kiddo. You’ll feel better. But take it slow, that’s some strong stuff.”

I took a sip, finding that the cranberry and lime almost overpowered the vodka. “It’s really good!” I said, and my surprise must’ve shown in my face, because he laughed.

“Okay, let’s go.”

**

We walked back out into the living room again, and as if by magic, three girls from our class materialized around Scott and I.

“Hey, Scott!” Kay McDonald beamed at my best friend, showing off straight white teeth. Her short blonde bob reflected the rainbow colors of the strobes, and she was dressed in a little black dress that showed off all of her ample curves. Her hand was wrapped around a green beer bottle, and she leaned forward. “I was hoping that you’d come.”

“I wouldn’t miss it! Plus, Ruben has never been to a party, and it’s almost his birthday.” He clapped me on the shoulder so hard that I nearly dropped my drink. Kay smiled at me. “Happy almost birthday, Ruben.” Her eyes returned to Scott, and he smiled at her; sparks were flying between them, and I felt like I was watching something private.

The two girls with her, Callie Carpenter and Veronica Lang, were watching quietly, each of them nursing their own drinks. I smiled at them shyly, feeling my cheeks heat; to say that I was awkward with the opposite sex was a huge understatement.

“Hi,” I said, shouting to be heard over the thumping bassline. Callie smiled and wiggled her fingers, tilting her head to the side as though she was studying me. She was pretty, with long, dark hair that she’d formed into space buns, eyes so dark that they looked black, olive skin, plush, kissable lips, and an open, welcoming smile. She was dressed in a pair of tight red leather pants, and a halter top that was shimmery and scarlet, nursing a glass of red wine.

Veronica was watching the crowd, a distant smirk pulling at her thin, expressive mouth, a cup with orange liquid inside it perched in her hand. She had red, curly hair that she pulled into a bun at the nape of her neck, and keen, bright green eyes that glinted like chips of emerald. Her clothing was conservative, considering all of our classmates: just a simple pair of ripped black jeans and a sweater the color of crushed raspberries.

When I turned back to Scott and Kay, they were gone; I looked around and spotted them on the stairs, Kay leading Scott, their hands entwined and their drinks abandoned on the coffee table.

**

Later, when I’d drank a good three or four more vodka cranberries, Callie was in my lap on a couch in the den, arms wrapped around my neck, kissing me softly.

“Have you ever done this before?” She asked, her fingers exploring under my shirt, and I shook my head mutely, unable to believe my luck.

“Lucky me,” She whispered against my neck, and I shuddered. After the chaos in the living room, the room was almost too quiet, but she smelled so good, and all of my senses were overloaded, full of her; everything was clouded by her.

But even having a gorgeous girl in my lap wasn’t enough to distract from one of the windows breaking, the glass sparkling on the carpet.

Inside the hole wriggled a tiny, little green creature whose head barely came up to the sill, pointed ears twitching. It was naked, aside from the tiny, filthy loincloth wrapped around its waist.

“Your parents told you that if you were naughty, we would come for you,” It said, in a voice that reminded me of a serrated knife. “And now you must go before the king to confess your crimes, however big or small, Ruben Cafferty.”

**