Category: my writing

(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.”

**

(WP) The Worst Villain and The Fiery Heir

(WP) The Worst Villain and The Fiery Heir

At last, it was happening, finally, he thought to himself, flushed with his victory. He’d done it.

He stared down at the sedate princess that lay down on the bed inside of his tiny cottage. He may have been the villain of this land, but he knew how to stay under the radar. It would not do to make any missteps, not now, when he’d finally captured a princess. It had taken weeks of planning, but at last, he had a pawn to use, something to hold over the kingdom’s head until they gave in to his demands.

He hadn’t become the best villain around just to be ignored. Not anymore.

The princess was deep in slumber, even several hours after she’d been kidnapped. She was a lovely specimen, with golden brown skin,  tattoos of red, gold, and orange looping up and down her arms in a language he hadn’t seen before, long, dark lashes, and a full, plush mouth that was parted slightly, as if waiting for a kiss. Her gown had gotten ripped in transport, even though he’d told the blithering idiots who served him to be especially careful with her.
But he simply couldn’t have done it himself, without any muscle. He may have been a magic worker, but he’d had things to do here in the cottage, so he’d sent them instead. He was itching to wake the princess, but he didn’t dare; better that she wake up on her own.

Then he’d break the news that she was his prisoner, at least until he’d gotten his way.

Lost in his own thoughts, he turned away, wanting to prepare a simple meal for his captive when she woke. He knew how to entertain, even if it had been years since he’d even attempted to do so. People who lived around here tended avoid him, partially due to the fact that he had been such an awful villain until now.

He found himself grinning; that would all change now. The kingdom would not allow their precious only heir to waste away here; she was his golden ticket to ruling over all.

**
When she awoke, the room swam; why wasn’t she in her suite in the palace? This place was small, dark, and smelled of game and smoke. She sat up, so quickly that the unfamiliar room spun around her.

“Where am I?” She asked, and her voice came out muffled, as if from underwater. “This isn’t the palace. I demand answers!”

She could feel the flames inside of her flaring in her blood, readying her for a fight. She wasn’t some fragile, delicate flower that needed saving. Quite the opposite, actually. But the universe had endowed her with the ability to hide her true nature inside of her skin, and she was thankful for it. It was much better to hide in plain sight; as a result, no one but her family knew what she really was.

She was ready for a fight; she would burn this pile of sticks to the ground if it meant getting free, and the creature inside her strained against her hold on it; it longed to spread its wings, to rip and tear and rend, to feel the air on her skin.
But first, she had to figure out just who, or what, had spirited her away from the palace.

She got out of bed, ignoring the way her limbs were heavy, fighting her as if sleep still had a firm grip on her body.
Just as she did, she heard the creak of a wooden door opening on rusty hinges, and her head swiveled in the direction of the sound. And then a merry, deep baritone, singing a jaunty tune. It made her sleepy, all over again, and she shook her head, trying to clear it.

She had to keep her wits about her.

**
When he entered the room, he saw that his ward (the word prisoner was so unpleasant, and he didn’t want them starting off on the wrong foot), awake, bright golden eyes blinking in the dim light.

“You’re awake! I brought you some food. Simple fare, less than what you’re used to, no doubt, but it will do, I suppose.”
Before he could so much as take another step, the girl growled, a deep, guttural sound low in her throat, and if he wasn’t mistaken, smoke curled out of her nostrils.

“Who are you? Where am I, and what do you want with me?” She snarled, teeth bared at him, but he just smiled; he was certain that lack of rest was making him hallucinate. There was no way that smoke was coming out of her nose. That was impossible.

“Oh, just someone who wants to use your position to gain control of your kingdom, Highness.” He said blithely; he saw no point in lying. “Now, you’d best eat, because at dawn, I must send word to your parents that you are in my possession. I’m sure they’re worried.” He set the tray of food in front of her, waving a hand so that she sat against her will.

She’d heard of this magic worker; he may have played at being a villain, but until now, he’d never been successful at anything remotely evil. She sniffed at the food in front of her: a glass of milk, a savory stew swimming with chunks of meat and a bounty of vegetables, and freshly baked bread, studded with fruit and nuts. It all smelled delicious, and the monster inside her growled, desperate for nourishment.

She didn’t smell any poison in the food, and besides, she needed strength if she was to fight back.
Keeping one eye on her captor, she quickly ate the food, barely tasting it. Thankfully, the low light hid the glowing tattoos that adorned her arms and shoulders.

She just had to bide her time, even if she was ready to scream her impatience. All of her animal instincts were firing up, and as a result, it was close to impossible to sit still.

**

She’d eaten the food, with little hesitation, even as he saw the questions that blazed in her eyes. He stood up to take the tray to the kitchen, and he turned around, walking to the door. But he never made it, because when he spun around, there was a gigantic scarlet dragon standing behind him, with razor-sharp fangs and bright golden eyes.

The princess’s eyes.

And that was the last thing he saw before his blood splattered the cottage walls.

(IP) Ocean Voices

thestorychaser:

Somewhere along the line, she had somehow gotten lost. Maybe she’d gotten caught by a current and pushed in the wrong direction. She put down the oar, holding it across her lap, looking around, trying to see if anything looked familiar. Nothing.

Her heart began to pound in her chest, and the oar she was holding became slick with sweat. How was she going to find her way back to the beach? She had nothing with her except a few bottles of water, some snacks, and a bottle of sunscreen.

And then she spied the dark shapes moving in and out, under her boat. She clapped her hands over her mouth to stifle a shriek of panic and fear. Her vision spotted, and soon every breath that she took in was a labor, her chest seemingly wrapped in tight iron bands that made breathing all but impossible.

Okay, okay, she thought to herself. Don’t let your panic get the best of you. She took a few deep breaths, and after a few moments, her vision cleared. She gathered her wits and looked ahead; she had to get to land, and then she would focus on what to do next. She put the oar back into the water and began to row, trying to ignore the way that the sun was beginning to set, and the way her arms screamed in protest at the movement.

She never should’ve stormed off after they’d fought. But she hadn’t been thinking clearly, too blinded by the need to get away, her throat still hurting from crying and screaming. She had no idea just how long she’d been out here, and she wiped a hand across her face, crusted with sand and sweat. She needed to go back, to make things right, but the bitterness that built up in her throat prevented it; she just wanted to find her way home and go to sleep.

“I think she’s lost,” A voice murmured from behind her, soft, hesitant. “Should we help her?”

“You know the rules. We aren’t supposed to interfere, not for any reason. Besides, she’s a human,” Another voice responded, aloof and gruff. “And it wouldn’t matter anyway; one less of them to worry about.”

“How could you be so callous? She’s been out here for hours.”

“We’re only supposed to watch, and you know it! Besides, this wouldn’t be the first time someone invaded our home.”

“I’d hardly say that she’s invading. You can stay here, but I’m going to help her–”

Thalia wondered if she was hallucinating, if she’d been out on the waves so long that she was beginning to lose her mind from lack of sleep. Where were those voices coming from? They were muffled, as if they were creatures speaking from underwater.

But that was impossible. Wasn’t it?

There was the flowing of water, and then a sleek black head popped up, coming to the side of the tiny skiff. “I can help you get back home.”

The speaker was male, and Thalia saw through the clear blue water that though he was human on his top half, with sun-drenched skin, tattoos, and brown eyes so dark they looked nearly black, his lower one ended in a sleek black seal tail.

“Who are you?” Thalia asked, and the creature smiled at her, speaking in a language that she did not understand.

“Let’s get you to shore and then we’ll talk. Deal?”

“Deal.”

**

Hey, guys! My latest short story, courtesy of an image prompt on Reddit! As always, feedback is encouraged and appreciated! I hope you enjoy it! Thank you so much for your support, I love you all! <3 <3 <3

(IP) Storms and Stories

The storm was here at last. He stood on the shore, eyes on the sky, which was darkening with every passing moment.

The ocean had always been a source of comfort throughout his life; it been one of his only constants, so until now, it simply hadn’t occurred to him to be afraid of it.

The adults had been talking about the incoming disaster for days, stockpiling provisions, for the sea was far too treacherous to navigate now, with the storm so close. He’d wanted to leave, to pack up the family and sail away, ahead of it, but his parents and big sister wouldn’t hear of it, saying that it was too dangerous, even for people like them.

He knew that he should leave, should return to the hut and help prepare, but something compelled him to stay, watching the violent waves turn the water into a dark bubbling soup, his feet buried in the damp sand.

“Kai!” A voice called from behind, and he turned toward it; a young woman was racing toward him, arms pumping at her sides, her dark curls flying behind her like a black flag, gleaming even in the darkness. “What are you doing?” She asked when she skidded to a stop beside him. “Shouldn’t you be helping your family with preparations?”

“I just wanted to see if it was all true this time, or if the adults just were overreacting,” He answered, shrugging, eyes drawn against his will to the blood-red tattoos that adorned her arms, clavicle, and neck that marked her as a daughter of one of the Elders. He pointed to the clouds, thick and black and ominous. “Looks like it’s actually happening this time.”

She nodded, taking a band of thin rope and winding it around her hair, tucking it all into a bun at the nape of her neck.

“Your mother and uncle have been looking for you. I figured I’d find you out here.”

“What makes this storm any different, Kalani?” He asked his friend, reaching for her hand instinctively. “Aren’t they an occupational hazard on an island like this one?”

She squeezed his hand lightly. “You know the story, Kai. One day a storm will come and send the ocean into a frenzy, and it will devour the island. You know, like that story of the land of… At.. Atlan… I can’t remember.”

“Atlantis?” He asked, and she nodded, her eyes on the horizon, biting her lip worriedly.

“But it’s just a story, isn’t it? Like all of our tales and myths? Surely they aren’t all true.”

“The adults of our tribe seem to think differently,” Kalani replied, shrugging her slim shoulders. “Come on, your parents are worried about you, and besides, it’s almost dinnertime.”

As if in reply, Kai’s stomach grumbled angrily, and he reluctantly turned away from the ocean, and the pair began the long trek back to the village.

**

The hut glowed with weak, golden lantern light, and Kai’s mother came to the door, hands on her hips.

“And just where have you been, son?” She asked, sparing a smile of thanks for his childhood friend. “The storm is nearly here, and you’re out wandering! You should be ashamed!”

“I’m sorry, Mother. I just… I wanted to see if the rumors were true this time. There have been false alarms before, after all.”

“Why would the Elders lie to us? The gods give them their powers for a reason. Now, come inside and have some dinner. She looked at Kalani. "Would you like to stay for dinner, dear? Fish stew and taro mash. We’ve got plenty, and you’re looking awfully peaky.”

“No, thank you, ma’am, my parents are expecting me. Have a nice night!” She smiled at Kai and waved, then disappeared, walking back to her own hut further down the street.

Kai walked inside, his stomach grumbling angrily as he caught the scent of garlic, ginger, and chili.

“I didn’t mean to worry you, Mother. I’m sorry.”

“Your mind is always elsewhere,” His mother replied; though the words were sharp, her voice was soft, exasperated. “Ever since your father died, your feet have led you back to the ocean, never mind that is one of the most powerful forces in this world. I don’t want to lose you.”

“I know, Mother,” He said, washing his hands and sitting at the table. As usual, there were three seats, and three bowls, though it had been years since his father’s passing; his mother just couldn’t bear to clear away his seat at the head of the table. Kai knew how she felt; he missed his father too, and it had been the ocean that had taken him, on a routine trip out on the waves to bring back fish and other seafood back to the village, some to sell, and some of it to feed them.

And still he couldn’t bring himself to be afraid of it, to not love it, even after seeing all the destruction it had wrought, upon the island and his own family. It was as much a part of him as the sun, the moon, and their children, the stars, and the bright blue blanket that was the sky.

He just couldn’t bring himself to listen to the Elders’ warnings, even though he knew they meant well. He didn’t want to leave, either, even on pain of death.

This was the only home he’d ever known.

** 

(IP) Dark Whispers

(IP) Dark Whispers

It had been more of an accident than anything, a lark, a joke, a playful test of sorts. He’d never believed. He’d never had reason to, because he’d been chosen by the gods. But his parents and siblings were gone, and he didn’t think that a harmless stroll through the barred-off sections of the library would get him into too much trouble.

Clearly, he’d been wrong, as evidenced by the skeletal bird-woman with cold, clawed hands on his shoulders. He could feel her cold, rotten breath ghosting on his neck, and it took every ounce of his self-control not to shudder away from her.

“Is it true, that I’ve been summoned by one of the royal children?” She asked, her golden eyes alight with malice. Her nostrils flared delicately, mouth open slightly, as if she were tasting the air. “What a delicious development! And what, pray tell, has a human summoned me for? Broken me out of my prison for?”

It had been curiosity; he’d heard the legends his whole life, but he’d dismissed them as ancient history, mere wives tales. But here this monster was, standing before him in the flesh, waiting for an answer, head tilted to the side like a wildcat’s. Her stare traveled from his face down his bare torso, and she licked her lips with a long, pink tongue. Revulsion caused his gorge to rise in his throat, but his face was impassive, showing no emotion.

“Curiosity,” The prince answered quietly, shrugging his shoulders as though she were nothing of consequence to him at all. Being royal meant that playacting of any kind was as easy as breathing, and he knew instinctively that if he revealed any kind of weakness at all, she would latch on and not let go, not without a fight. “I tend not to believe in the stories that my family tells.”

The bird-woman laughed, a hacking rasp that echoed in the large room. “Is that all? Mere boredom made you break the ancient laws and free me? You may be quite the handsome specimen, little prince, but you aren’t the brightest, are you?”

“Hold your tongue!” The prince snarled, taking out two of the golden spikes that held his dark hair in place, and he held one to her throat, the other to her barbed tail. “I am a prince and I will receive the respect my station deserves, or I will make you pay in blood before imprisoning you once again!”

The bird-woman smirked, her plum-colored lips peeling away from her mouth to reveal tiny, sharp pointed fangs. “Oooh, and you’ve got spunk, too. Very well. I apologize.” She said, inclining her head regally.

The prince was unnerved; he’d heard stories of these monsters, and their Harpy Queen, all of his life, but this one was entirely too human for his taste. He hadn’t been prepared for this at all, and he found himself cursing his mistake. And he was alone and practically unarmed.

How could he have been so foolish? He was far too old for such pranks and tomfoolery. But it was too late; he’d broken the seal, the binding spell that kept her caged inside of that glass case in his father’s curio cabinet.

But there had been no way of knowing whether it had been real or false, before now: He was the youngest of all of his brothers and sisters, he thought with contempt. He wasn’t privy to the knowledge that his parents and siblings so coveted and treasured. After all, he’d been a spare. A mistake, at best. Even on some off chance that he somehow ended up on the throne, no one wanted him there. No one trusted him, not with anything that actually mattered.

 A lump built up in his throat, and he swallowed it down, willing his emotions not to show on his face, or she would pounce. And he wouldn’t be the first, or last person, that she’d fooled. She was notorious for her lies and guile. He had to be on his guard, no matter how he actually felt.

“I sense that your heart is heavy with doubt, your mind buzzing with questions. Perhaps I could help you? Direct you to answers?”

“Be silent,” The prince said through gritted teeth, his cheeks flushed with his mistake. “Or do you wish to return to your prison? The only person that The Harpy Queen helps is herself and your children.”

“As far as you know. You know so little, ignorant prince. Some people hide the darker parts of history so they don’t have to realize their own mistakes. I wouldn’t be so certain that I am the villain in this tale.”

**