Stories

A Tale of Blood and Roses, Part 3, by Keira Heckman

#blood and roses #fantasy

Maccan ran a hand over his perfectly smoothed hair before he set off down the hallway again. Jake didn’t follow this time. Instead, he went to find Rosalind.

He found her in Exam Room B sitting on an examination table dressed in jeans and an old t-shirt. He folded his arms as he leaned against the doorframe and waited for her physical examination to be over. She sat with her legs swinging slightly, crinkling the white paper beneath her.

The nurse crossed over to her. “Open your mouth, please.”

Rosalind did as she was told while the nurse peeled the microphone from the inside of her cheek.

“Am I done?” Rosalind asked the nurse. Her eyes met Jake’s and she raised an eyebrow.

The nurse nodded. Rosalind jumped down from the table and skipped over to the doorway where Jake stood. “What’s up?”

Jake stood up straight and walked down the hallway in the same direction he had come, gesturing for Rosalind to follow.

“De-briefing?” She asked, matching his stride with ease. Her tone was coloured with a mixture of sarcasm and annoyance. Rosalind was much more of an act first, ask questions later agent. She had been taken in by the agency at twelve years-old and climbed through the ranks until she had found a position that fit. She made an excellent field agent, but he pitied the person that had to fill out her mission reports, until he remembered that was his job now. He sighed mentally, budget cuts.

He nodded. He glanced at her shirt, “Daddy issues?” he raised his eyebrows at her as he read the words printed on the yellow fabric.

Rosalind smiled, “It’s funny cause it’s true.”

Jake liked it when she smiled. It brought out a small dimple in her left cheek. When you added her bright blue eyes, lined with perfectly winged eyeliner, the contrast of her pale skin, and auburn hair, the result was a very pretty face.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you without eyeliner.”

“And you never will,” she teased.

Jake swiped his ID badge on the card slot in the door and pushed it open. “After you,” he said as he held it open for her.

“You know I can open a door for myself, right?”

Jake rolled his eyes, “I know you can open a door. I was being gentlemanly.”

Rosalind smirked as she stepped through the door. “Wow, there really is a first time for everything.”

Jake stepped through after her, shaking his head slightly as the door sealed shut behind them.

The size of the room was unclear because of the amount of technology that had been stuffed into it. A large screen took up most of one wall, while piles of old modes of computers, keyboards and base units took up another. The air smelled of dust, heated plastic with a faint scent of Doritos.

Rosalind saw a swivel chair in the center of the room and sat on it, one leg tucked under her, the other she used to spin herself in slow circles. Jake took the spare chair and moved it over a monitor in the corner of the room. He switched the monitor on and the screen showed an open document—a rundown of Rosalind’s latest assignment.

Jake sat on the chair, his eyes darting across the screen. He could see her spinning in the corner of his eye and sighed, “Please stop, you’re giving me motion sickness just watching you.”

“Sorry,” Rosalind wheeled her chair over to him.

“Okay, so what do we know about the assignment?” Jake asked, scrolling through the file.

“Known locally as the faceless man, seven feet tall, great fashion sense, oh, and I killed him,” Rosalind smiled.

Jake looked up at her, “What did you miss?”

Her look of triumph was replaced by one of confusion.

“Nothing.”

Jake turned back to the screen and read from it. “The faceless man disables his prey by emitting a high frequency sound. Victims have reported dizziness, disorientation, migraines, temporary deafness, and even blindness.”

Rosalind put a hand to her head, “The headaches.”

Her eyes widened, “Is that why I fell? The disorientation? Because I never fall, you’ve seen me train. I’m like a cat. I always land on my feet.”

Jake nodded, “It’s the most probable explanation.” He closed the tab and turned his chair back towards Rosalind. “About your fall…”

Rosalind read his face like a book, “What did Maccan have to say about it?”

Jake was taken aback, “How did you—”

“I could tell by your face. You get this look after you’ve spoken to him, like you’ve been sent to the headmaster’s office for something you didn’t do. So…”

Rosalind leaned forward in her seat.  “What did he say? Am I in trouble?” Her face was serious but there was a sparkle in her eyes.

Jake sighed, “He said your fall was an embarrassment to the agency and told me to deal with it.”

Rosalind looked relieved as she slumped back in the chair. “Oh, that’s not too bad. Just put a note in my file and delete the footage. It’d be a shame to mar my perfect record, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make if it’ll get Maccan off my back.”

He got up from his seat and walked across the room, running a hand through his hair. “I don’t know if I can just do that, Rosa. He was pretty ticked off. So,” He looked down, “I’m assigning you to Camilla.”

Rosalind’s jaw dropped, “Vampire duty?! But it wasn’t my fault that I fell. It was no face guy and his high frequency sounds!”

“I know that, but Maccan—” Jake started but Rosalind spoke over him.

“Did you at least explain to him—”

“I tried but he wouldn’t hear it. Besides, I think it’s for the best that you lay low for a little while.” Jake walked over to a monitor and turned it on.

Rosalind got to her feet. “And if I refuse?”

Jake looked up from the computer. “Well, technically, I’m your superior-”

“Not necessarily,” She shot back. Her anger clouded her pretty features.

“I’m your superior and I could report you to Maccan,” Jake finished.

Rosalind stared at him for a while before she spoke. “Fine. I’ll go babysit a three-hundred-year-old but it’s a waste of my talents, and we both know it.” She strode past him but stopped at the door.

She turned, “And you’ll report me to Maccan? Now who has daddy issues?”

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A Tale of Blood and Roses, Part 2, by Keira Heckman

#blood and roses #fantasy #scifi

The official job title that Jake Lachlan held was “Project Manager.” It said so on his contract and in smaller letters on his ID badge, but his real purpose was cleaning up other people’s messes—a job that never seemed to end. It seemed like every few minutes there was another thing that he had to fix. The latest, was Rosalind’s face off with the faceless man.

“What the hell was that?”

Jake looked up from his phone to see a swarm of people in suits pace toward him, the leader of the group was his boss’s boss, John Maccan.

“Rosalind is supposed to be our finest agent, Lachlan, you said that she could get the job done,” Maccan said as he tugged sharply on his navy blazer, smoothing out a non-existent crease.

Maccan was dressed sharply with his dark hair slicked back. Jake was the complete opposite; his dirty blonde hair was unruly. It stuck up in all directions no matter how hard he tried to tame it. While his superior was decked out, Jake wore a beige checkered shirt and an old pair of jeans accompanied by rust stain half way down one pant leg.

Jake slipped his phone into a pocket, “Well, respectfully sir, she did get the job done. She neutralized the threat.”

Maccan’s assistant gave a small tut and tapped on the tablet she was carrying. She presented it to Maccan with a small look of satisfaction. He glaced at it and turned it so that Jake could see. Playing on the screen was footage of Rosalind’s tumble backwards down the hill. Maccan turned it off as she landed at the bottom.

He took a small step closer to Jack as he spoke, “Does this look like our finest agent? The best that we have to offer? This—,” he gestured to the screen, “—is an embarrassment to this agency. You had better deal with it before the press get wind of it. The FDA have been looking for an excuse to shut us down and I’ll be damned if she’s the reason.” He gave another sharp tug on his blazer and set off down the hallway with his gaggle of businessmen trailing after him.

Jake raced after them. “Sir, what exactly do you want me to do with her?” He had to jog to keep up with their brisk pace. “She made one mistake. She can’t be punished for falling.”

Maccan stopped and turned to stare down at him. “It was a mistake that could have got her killed and would have let a target get away. Do you know how much paperwork a mess like that would produce?”

“Actually, sir, I do,” Jake said. One of the joys of his job was filling out mountains of documents detailing the dangers of one’s mistakes. He continued, “But that doesn’t mean—”

“Do you know how much time and, more importantly, how much money goes into training a new agent? People are scared. We are getting more assignments every day. It’s a struggle as it is to keep all of this under wraps. Can you imagine the widespread panic that would happen if the general public knew that monsters or demons or whatever you want to call them are not only real, but running amok in their towns?” Maccan spat.

“Like I said, Lachlan, deal with this or I’ll have to deal with you and you know what happens when I get my hands on an agent’s file,” Maccan said sternly.

Jake knew all too well what happened when Maccan got involved: memory wipes, arrests, and if worse came to worse, death.

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A Tale of Blood and Roses, Part 1, by Keira Heckman

#blood and roses #fantasy

There was something about the forest that had always felt comforting to Rosalind. Maybe it was the light breeze that danced across her face, or the way that the sunlight bathed everything in a yellowish hue. Perhaps it was the loaded crossbow in her hands and the arson of weapons at her side. She had practically emptied the trunk before she left, but she doubted anyone would mind. They had been hunting him for the best part of twelve years and every time they got close to minimizing the threat, he disappeared. His attacks were getting more frequent, more violent, and if they were sending Rosalind in, it meant that he had to be stopped.

The blanket of leaves cushioned the sound of her boots against the forest floor, but there was little she could do to cover the sound of rustling leave as she walked. The only solution was to move slowly, which she despised. It made her feel like the hunted instead of the hunter.

“How are we doing, Rosalind?” Jake’s voice said in her ear.

“Slow but steady,” She replied, her voice less than a whisper. The microphone taped to the inside of her cheek caught every vibration her mouth made.

“Do you have his position yet?”

She caught the sound of someone typing faintly through the earpiece. She heard a twinge of uncertainty under Jake’s Scottish drawl, “It’s hard to determine exactly where he is, you know with the lack of a heat signature, but the closer you get to him, the clearer it’ll become.”

“So, in other words, you won’t know where he is until he’s right on top of me.” Rosalind said, her voice was punctuated by a hint of annoyance. She started to stray away from the path and stood on the edge of the sloping hill beneath her.

“That’s another way of putting it,” he said. Rosalind rolled her eyes as she crept down the path.

“Be careful here. The path drops and you need to make as little noise as possible to avoid alerting him with your movements.”

She bit her lip as she concentrated on her descent. The sound of leaves rustling made her skin pickle. She swung her crossbow over her shoulder, poised to shoot in the direction of the sound. “What was that?” She murmured, her eyes scanning the area.

“Maybe just a small animal?” Jake suggested. “There’s nothing big coming up on the thermal scan.”

Rosalind shook her head. “No, it was more than that. I felt something,” she said as she kept her eyes on the direction of the sound.

“It might just be all that hair getting in your ears. I don’t know how you can hear anything through it,” he said jokingly.

Rosalind’s hair was thick, auburn coloured, and fell in loose waves. She was used to Jake teasing her about it and the fact that he had chosen now to joke about it meant that he didn’t think that she was in any immediate danger.

“Jake. I’m serious,” she said as she relaxed her grip on the crossbow while keeping her gaze on the sound. Her skin bristled with restless energy. The adrenaline that buzzed through her system seemed to be working against her and she was struggling to keep her hands steady.

“So am I,” Jake shot back. “I honestly think the best option is to have your head shaved and be done with it.”

Rosalind suppressed a sigh. “Now really is not the time, I—” Her foot slipped on a wet leaf and knocked her balance off, sending her tumbling down to the bottom of the hill. She landed on her back, winded and covered in leaves, with throbbing pain in the back of her head. She lost her crossbow in her fall, the knives at her waist had fallen out of her belt and were scattered on the ground around her.

“Rosa!” She heard Jake shout, his voice muffled and slightly distorted. Her earpiece had been knocked out of place slightly in her fall but remained otherwise undamaged. She sat up slowly and gently pushed it back into place.

“I’m fine,” Rosalind said, “Just a headache.” Once she sat up, the throbbing in her head had escalated and it felt as if someone was drilling into her skull.

Jake’s voice was loud and frantic, “He’s coming towards you, fast. Twenty feet and counting!”

She scrambled to her feet, her eyes darting around for her crossbow when he crashed through the leaves. He was seven feet tall, his arms reached down to his midthigh, ending in stubs of wrists. His skin was ghostly, and he was dressed in a black suit, yet by far the creepiest thing about him was his face—or rather his lack of it. Instead, there was a smooth stretch of skin where his features should be.

The man with no face barreled toward Rosalind, his overly long arms swinging. The pain in Rosalind’s head blurred her vision. He swung his arm at her, she ducked, still searching the ground for her crossbow.

And then she remembered the other weapons she had.

Rosalind jumped up punched him in the stomach, putting all the force she could muster behind the blow. The faceless man hissed as he staggered back. Rosalind raced towards him, this time aiming a kick at his neck, but the pain in her head was gradually worsening and it threw her off her balance. She caught the side of his ribcage instead and fell, landing awkwardly on her side. She pushed the hair out of her eyes and jumped to her feet. He ran toward her again and pushed her hard against the trunk of a tree, the bark rough against her spine.

“Rosalind,” Jake was in her ear suddenly. She winced as the microphone he spoke into gave off feedback. He spoke over it, his voice loud and urgent. “Hitting him in the stomach is no use. The weak point is his face.”

The faceless man stood back before lunging for her throat. She ducked.

“But he doesn’t have a face!” She shot back. The tree shook as he collided with it. Rosalind leaped past him, slightly disorientated. She felt something wrap around her leg and looked down to see his suit-clad arms clutching to her ankle. He gave a tug and she fell. His long arms pulled her towards him like a prized catch on the end of a fishing rod. As she was being dragged across the forest floor, her skin scratched by stray pine needles, she saw something gleam in the sunlight.

The crossbow.

Her ear filled with the sound of static and Jake’s voice trying to overpower it. “I mean the area where his face should be… he’s… before…” His voice was drowned out by static.

Rosalind dug her nails into the dirt and felt the faceless man stop for a second, confused. He wasn’t used to his victims fighting back. His pause gave Rosalind the advantage she needed, and she used her elbows to crawl towards the weapon. He recovered from the shock quickly and Rosalind felt him pull on her leg again. Her fingers were inches from the hilt and she was determined to survive.

She pushed her elbows into the ground, suddenly glad that she had chosen to wear a waterproof jacket and used her knees to push her body along. Her fingers closed around the edge of the crossbow and she held onto it as she rolled onto her front. Rosalind retrieved an arrow from her jacket pocket and loaded it into place. Rosalind’s finger hovered over the trigger as she tried to aim for the center of his face. Her vision was blurry, but the paleness of his face stood out against the lush background of the forest. She waited until he was stood over her to take the shot.

She let the arrow fly.

It landed just off the center of the space where his face should be and he let out a high wailing sound. Rosalind covered her ears as she watched his knees buckle beneath him before he fell to the ground. She got to her feet slowly, as the pounding in her head settled, and her vision returned to normal.

“Is he dead?” She said aloud, not bothering to be quiet.

There was the sound of typing before Jake answered, “I think so. How’s your head?”

Rosalind touched her temple gently, “Better. Much better actually.”

“Huh. I guess he’s dead then.”

“What does that have to do with my headache?” Rosalind asked, she held onto her crossbow, poised to attack, just in case.

“I’ll explain when you get back to HQ. Sit tight, I’m sending a team in to relieve you.”

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Clara de Vance, Mage Mistress of Ice and Wind

#erotic #erotica #fantasy #sexy

She was beautiful. Her hair ran the length of her back, with an azure color like pure ice. Her eyes were gray, as if they held storm clouds within them. She was at least six feet tall, and her ears were long and pointed, not unusual for an elf. Her name was Clara de Vance and not only was she amazing to behold, but also immensely talented in the art of magic. Clara was one of five mages that sat on the Council of The Elements. An order that advices kings, queens and emperors, as well as overseeing the training of mages across the realm.
Clara was also the most powerful of the council due to her mastery of wind and ice magic. That accompanied with her renown among the nobles made the other four mages envious and resentful. Clara sensed this and decided to leave the council in pursuit of a life more suited to her salacious sensibilities.
“Mmhm” moans Clara ” right there, that’s the spot.” Clara’s consort massages her back.
“This is why you are my favorite.”Clara compliments her masseuse.
“Ohmm, Bran your hands are magnificent.”
“Maybe when we have more time I can show you what my hands can really do.” Bran teases
“Maybe” Clara purrs “but for now this will do perfectly.”
After the message Clara kisses her consort and sets off to her meeting with the Lord of the town. He wants her advice on a public relations issue. As her carriage departs she feels an ill shift in the air. She is being followed, but by whom?
She arrives at the Lord’s office in the town hall, but he is not there.
“Well I am early, it won’t hurt to wait and sip some of the Lord’s fine brandy.” Clara poures a glass and sat on the couch. The room was well furnished, lavish chairs and rustic tables, fine crystal and a fully stocked bar.
“This is what I call an office.” she thought to herself “Maybe I will add one like it to my home in this town, I know Bran would love to play secretary.”
She giggles, but before she can let her imagination play the Lord walks in.
“Sorry to have kept you madame” he said apologetically “but I see you have made yourself comfortable.”
Clara looks up from her glass and added ” oh yes, you have fine taste in furnishing and drink.”
“I am glad it is to your liking, but to the matter of which you are here.” Clara and the Lord speak for many hours. She offers him council and better advice, it seems, than her former colleagues.
“Thank you miss de Vance, as usual you have offered superb council.”
“Please call me Clara, and it is my specialty to offer such advice.” The two bid their adieus and on the way out Clara is paid by the Lord’s treasurer. Five pounds of gold is what she receives and with a proud, mischievous grin she accepts every piece.
“I always out do those pompous fools on the council.” Clara says to herself as she enjoys her days spoils. Unfortunately the mood is spoiled as she senses another shift in the air.
“Hmm, it is about time I confront whoever has been following me.” She motions her hand and the carriage stops. Clara peers out of the back window to see if there is another carriage pursuing her. There is not, yet she knows her stalker was hiding somewhere.
She steps out of the carriage, another shift in the wind, but this time it is coming from above. Clara looks up and sees another wind mage hovering in the sky.
“Well are you going to come down and introduce yourself or am I going to have to force you down.” Clara shouted, unimpressed at the sight. The other mage , not wanting to press his luck, descended.
“So… Why have you been following me?” Clara demanded. The other mage did not reply. He just stares at her with his pale white eyes, as if he is measuring her capability.
“I see. So you are the strong silent type.”
“Under any other circumstances that would be appealing, but seeing as you were stalking me I am going to have to insist on some answers.” And with that the other mage’s body began to grow cold.
“Ah yes, I almost forgot that you are also an ice mage.” The stalker finally spoke. Suddenly his body was covered in flame. Clara looks on. Still she is unimpressed.
“Don’t look so cocky ice witch, you know as well as I that fire beats ice.”
“Well it is a good thing that I am a master of both ice and wind.” Clara rebuts “and that you are a mere novice, and trying my patience.”
“You may be a master of wind but wind only amplifies fire” he replies angrily.
“Spoken like a true novice, and I do not have time to give you a lesson on wind magic.” Clara scoffs irritated at the novice’s ignorance. The fire mage gestures and mumbles a spell, but there is nothing. He tries again, and again but still nothing. Then his body startes to grow cold. He is confused, how is she doing this? Then his feet become encased in ice and frozen to the ground.
“Now as I was saying” Clara said mockingly “why are you here?”
The fire mage looks at her and spits in her face. “Well then if you want to get nasty we can get nasty.”
The ice creeps up the fire mage’s leg, past his thigh and stops at his testicles. “Now unless you want me to freeze them off I suggest you tell me what I want to know.”
He looks at Clara in horror and starts to tell her everything. “I was sent by the council to spy on you and if the opportunity were to arise kill you.”
“Well that backfired now didn’t it, but it was a valiant effort.” Clara added “You get to keep your family jewels, but if you cross me again they will not be the only thing to freeze.”
She retracts her ice and let her would be assailant stumble off, leaving him with more than wounded pride. “They were listening and I know they saw what I did, so what is next?”
Clara ponders what the council is plotting, but it soon bores her. “Well what ever it is I am sure they will keep sending more assassins.”
She re-enters her carriage. “Should be amusing.”
Clara rides off to the next town for her next meeting. “All of this over jealousy, but if I were them I would be jealous too.”
Her mind then drifts towards her consort in the next town, and how much fun she would have with her.
“Now if only Bran were there too.” She grins a lustful grin. “Well all in good time… All in good time.”

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Green Town, by Michael Fontana

#fantasy #shortstories

Inside the Green Town saloon I stood four-foot-six. I wore a gray hat, purple shirt, dungarees, and boots etched in both gray and purple. My hair was long and brown and hung down into my eyes. I carried both a pistol and a whip.

I had arrived in town on a stagecoach which ought to have been robbed along its trail but instead wound unmolested through the cacti and sand of the region, bearing its currency to Green Town, where the murderers dwelled. I had no logical purpose in this world, shifting from town to town as a bootblack, sitting outside of general stores with my rags and kit to clean the dust off of shoes which belonged to better men than me.

I had heard tell of the murderers in Green Town, but that was actually more of an allure than a dissuasion. Didn’t murderers need their shoes cleaned as well? Perhaps I could even run amongst them; they might take me on as an apprentice, or a sideshow, or a mascot, depending upon their collective demeanor.

So, counter to this outlaw atmosphere, I toasted my new drifter friends inside the saloon with a glass of champagne (which was in itself suspicious). No one of any manhood drank such a concoction. The saloon wouldn’t have carried it chilled at all, except for the brothel upstairs and the occasional out-of-town lush on a spending spree of gold looking for just the right trigger to inebriate his whore-to-be.

I stood staring through my flute of champagne at the murderers who sweated behind the broken windows as they took their aim. Few of the citizens made to move outdoors because they knew the consequence. I didn’t care. I was young enough to still consider myself impervious to bullets. Besides, I was just a mellow bootblack and a dwarf, not to be considered a threat to their manhood.

So I stepped outside. The dust swirled serpentine around my ankles. I shouted “Shoeshine, shoeshine,” into the blazing sun.

The murderers trained their eyes on me but didn’t open fire because I spun around in circles like a lunatic, mimicking the vultures overhead. The murderers seemed to find this amusing; one of them even shouted at me, “Get back inside, you damned fool!”

But I yipped and yimmied like to make no consequence of his words. He then actually came outside. He was a gray man: gray hair, gray beard, bolo tie and white shirt, also dungarees and dirty black boots. Much taller than me, he had his pistol trained on my abdomen. I danced a little jig for him and this made him laugh and shoot his pistol into the dirt near my feet.

“Dance you cretin, dance,” he said.

And dance I did until at some point I clapped my hands together then clapped them on my hips. Soon he picked up the cadence. I could hear the laughter of the other murderers inside at such a spectacle until on one of the claps to my hip I removed the whip and let it unfurl with a lash to his wrist, snapping the gun to the ground. When I drew my own it was exquisite, the immediate pop of the bullet into his throat where his laughter ceased and he bunched up into a puddle of human waste.

The murderers stopped laughing, but by this time my vision had broken into that of a fly’s: a million different filaments and lenses, each capable of containing one murderer apiece and slowing their motions down to second-by-second speed. Quickly I ducked behind a rain barrel on the opposite side of the street. They opened fire and punctured the barrel, but the bullets slowed with the wall of rainwater inside and so nothing injured me, just a scratch here and there.

However, my bullets didn’t halt and I knew that one struck another murderer inside because I could hear the collective gasp, could hear the thud of the body to the ground. This emboldened me to run across the street to just beneath their window and then hurtle myself through it. It was beautiful to land among them and catch the fear in their eyes as they scattered rather than battled. All murderers are cowards at heart. They wish to eliminate other lives in lieu of their own. It is a projection of suicide.

So I gave them what they craved by unloading my weapon into them until the walls were decorated red and all the breathing in the room had stopped. From there it was simple enough to walk back out into the baking heat and conduct another jig along the street back into the saloon where the inmates sat gawking over their whiskies at what they had just witnessed. I drank the remainder of my champagne and then rolled upstairs for other pleasures due me for my conquest and my youthful invincibility and my stature which had suddenly grown elevated in Green Town.

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Bacchanalia by E. Young

#bacchanalia #fantasy #haints #shortstories #stories #witchcraft

The Magician knew his time was drawing close. For months he had regaled the small bayou town with sleight-of-hand tricks, parlor games, and the odd séance.

But wherever there was people, there was superstition. And like all things children can’t understand, they began to conjure up haints and witches in their heads. They pointed their fingers at him for their nightmares; fair enough, he was an easy target.

The final straw was the Satanic accusations. After they had run through everything else, they accused him of cavorting with the Devil. For the record, he had not being trying to talk to the Old Fiend himself, just his helpers.

But that was all past. Now he was alone in his big, old estate on the water’s edge. He’d let his help go the other night. Despite their protestations of loyalty, he knew they were relieved.

The mob was coming. He knew that because a girl that was sweet on him tipped him off. He thanked her before he killed her, to use her blood for tonight’s concoction.

After each public witch trial, he’d had to give something away: trinkets, ingredients, spell books. Now all he had left were a couple of crystal balls he hardly ever used ‘cept to see out of, and his black cat familiar Michel.

He ran a finger under the cat’s chin while he ate a strip of catfish. One of the crystal balls glowed with the fire of torches, and the other shook with cries of outrage. The Magician rolled his eyes.

The mob was at his door already. He didn’t think they would knock, but he was still ticked when they crashed the door.

“Wizard!” bellowed a bearded old man that looked more “wizard” than the Magician himself. “Show yourself, devil!”

From the top of the stairs, the Magician leaned over the railing, Michel in tow.

“How can I help you fine gentlemen this evening?”

“Don’t play with us,” someone else hissed. “We mean to run you outta here!”

The stone-faced priest at the center of the crowd began muttering the Magician’s favorite church hymn, and when he began to sing along in his pleasing baritone, the crowd went off like a powder keg.

It’s hard to see from the ground with jostling bodies in furious motion, pulling fixtures from walls and snatching curtains down. Even innocent table chairs are chopped and well-stuffed chairs ripped apart and their guts strewn on the floor. Upstairs, the Magician ducks back into his boudoir like a coward. Some men chased him in there. The mob saw this and began to cheer loudly, but their hoorahs died down in the eerie silence behind the cracked door. What had happened? Where was the Magician’s head on a pike?

Then there was screaming, agonized screaming. At least two of the men staggered out clutching their heads and faces. They were splattered with too much blood and oil, and their flesh appeared to be melting. There was a loud whoosh that sounded like a bullwhip crack, and great long tentacles black like licorice whipped out from behind the doors, through the walls. Ten in all, with some flailing angrily and one snatched one of the men back and dragged him inside the boudoir kicking and screaming.

The Magician floated out like the blasphemous creature the town always knew he was, holding a fractured ball of quartz. The ball continued to crack with a childish twinkle like something out of a jewelry box. Upon reaching the center, the ball shattered and sent shards flying every which way in the room. The mob was broken up in a way mimicking the quartz shards, clutching their faces and heads and other soft tender parts that the haunted pieces were embedding themselves into. Faces and hands were cut to ribbons as the shards ricocheted off walls and went through the heavy drapery. The abomination in the bedroom was grabbing people up and shaking them like toys before a child throws them out the basket, dropping broken bodies with thousand-yard stares.The Magician watched the chaos for a while; people were so much like ants in the rain when they were hysterical-like, but not nearly as effective.

Michel pawed at his face.

“Oh! Time to go.”

The other ball he had reserved and now blew it away like sand in his palm. The particles clung to skin and fabric and ignited them in white smoke and blue flames. The Magician took his escape route through a tunnel in his bedroom that led to the undisturbed kitchen and out the back door into the swamps.

Poor Michel couldn’t swim, so the Magician carried him through miles of stinking, sludgy water riddled with alligators and probably more than a few forgotten bodies. But the water and wildlife parted at the Magician’s presence, so at least it was a dry trip. Once, he turned back to look at his former estate and seen the place gone up in a supernatural blaze. Love the place, not the people, he always said.

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The Library of Thoth, part 4

#adventure #fantasy #literature #shortstories #stories #zombies

THOUSAND.pngTHOUSAND

(Read part 3 here!)

Finding myself with no other choice, I left left the Old Man, of whose name I was even uncertain, to his fate, and endeavored back to the Beach to save what I could of the Books.

By the time I reached the sands of the beach, the dark waters already stretched quite some seventeen Yards inland from the site of the wretched ship; and thus I was obliged to wade that distance and later swim to reach the rigging of the ship.

However, when I was halfway up the rigging, I perceived that the ship had called more of those beastly Things from the water; as I had feared, destroying its bodily Crew did not dispel its curse. There now stood one of their number brandishing a most fearsome Cutlass high upon the Deck.

Another stood beside him, dropping a collection of Bombs into the water at my feet, which exploded in torrents of water.

However, I had still my own cutlass tied to its faithful Rope, and this I swung with the utmost compass of my strength at the Fiends above. This succeeded in disarming the cutlass-holding Pirate (the arm, still gripping its weapon, fell into the water like a seagull shot through with a musket ball), and quite Maiming the fellow with the Bombs.

I bethought myself of the destruction that had been wrought by my carelessness—when I brought the multitude of foul Fiends upon Thoth.

Conscious of the redemption I could bring by salvaging the treasure underneath my feet—saving what was left of Thoth—my heart was filled with a passion as if drug from the ocean’s deep.

I finished my climb up the rigging to find myself confronted with more of those foul beasts, brandishing all kinds of makeshift weapons: fearsome Meat Knives, weighty Clubs, rusty Cutlasses. But this wasn’t the time for fear.

I fought valiantly. My cutlass flew like a bird around the deck. It alit first on one fiend, splitting his skull like a crisp Tomato, and then made its purchase on a next and lodged in his Breast. I yanked the blade away and a strange kind of Blood, grey and Translucent, erupted from the wound.

However, the waters still surged underneath the ship, and presently they began to flood the deck upon which I stood. Thinking of the remaining portion of the Library, I dove into the space below the stairs to salvage what I could of the Books.

I swam down those wretched stairs and through the ship’s Corridors until I reached the submerged galley. The green and brackish Water was filled with torn and floating Pages. Some leather Volumes floated in the murk. I fetched one from the water and opened it; I found its pages only filled with Mush. I tried another book, and the contents were the same. I felt as if that pulp, which had once held the writings of a Civilization, was like my own soul: all the teachings once inscribed upon it had been mashed up by cowardice and greed.

I probably would have carried on my futile search until my lungs were filled with black sea, had not I felt a hand upon my shoulder then. I turned to see a billowing white Cloud, and I thought it was some vengeful Angel come to cast me into the deep. But it swirled away to reveal a Face, and I saw that it was merely a Beard. It was the old man from the cliff, come to rescue me!

He pulled me up with a strength unbefitting such an ancient creature. Finally divested of even the will to sacrifice myself, I ended my struggle and let him pull me from the ship.

 

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The Library of Thoth, Part 3 by Edward King

#fantasy #fiction #shortstories #Thoth #travel #travelers

THOUSAND.pngTHOUSAND

I took the ship between two jagged rocks, hoping to find some place to destroy it and thus stop its course towards my Homeland. However, I found myself filled with a most shameful Cowardice; and every time I skirted a jagged rock, I jerked the wheel away to save the ship and myself. Filled with a most wretched Shame, I brought the ship down on a pale beach and descended its rigging. I sat upon a black rock and wept.

Awakening from my display of self-Pity, I did become aware of a blazing Light high up on on the black Cliff above the beach. Thinking that this must be another human Being, and in dire need of Companionship, I fetched single Book from the deck, thinking that it would serve to Prove the existence of Thoth to a foreign Stranger. With the book in hand, I made my way up the cliff via a crooked Path.

When I reached at last the blazing Light, I found a most primitive House, consisting seemingly of bits of Driftwood nailed together and a roof of tropical Leaves. I knocked at the door and a man possessing a most Grey and scraggly Beard, with a form most bent and Crooked, appeared. His features were most Exotical in nature and did seem, to me, to bear a resemblance to those unique Characteristics of the denizens of Thoth.

In place of Speech, I handed him the book I had brought from the ship and I must profess that did flash over his face for a moment a most Awed look. Then his face returned to normal and He beckoned me inside his humble House.

The old man immediately turned to his Stove and did busy himself over his Kettle or Samovar, an elaborate contraption sculpted in the guise of an exotic Bird, the spout formed by an extremely long and narrow Beak. The house seemed to consist only of one room, and was most small and Hobbitish, being filled primarily with cooking Implements , preserved Foods, a large Fireplace and a small Bookcase. Though the books were written in a foreign Tongue, I ascertained that they were among the Low, Pulpy, Sensationalistic variety. Fanciful pictures were imprinted onto many of the pages, and I did notice various novels seemingly quite Indecent in nature, their covers embossed with images of scantily clad Maidens.

When the Tea was ready, he brought it out and poured out two Cups. He invited me to sit, while He remained standing.

“Thoth…” he said, his tone so low as to nearly be a Growl.

He made use of the occasion of sipping his tea to produce a most dramatic Pause. I did prepare myself to Halt him in his speech, and explain, through the use of Gestures, that the tongues we used to speak were entirely Foreign to one another.

“I was once the King of Thoth,” he said, upon Resuming.

Could I be hearing correctly—had this exotical Being learned, in some Academy, the English tongue? Was he making himself understood by some fantastical Magick? But he waved my questions aside as if they were unimportant or all would be Explained.

He sighed and there didst appear in his eye a most wistful Twinkle. “What I remember of Thoth is not the grand halls, the courtyards.  My memory has no place for Thoth’s famed Statues or paintings, nor its Philosophies, nor its great and magical Scientists.”

At this, my Mind was filled with images of Thoth at its height… the glittering Chalices held high for rowdy Banquets, the grand Streets quick with lusty carriers of Industry; the Sculptures, Frescoes and splendorous Temples. The books which I had Discovered were surely mere Leaves blown from the greater Tree of this society’s store of Literature, Science, and Philosophy. My heart quickened as I reflected that they could be the key to a grand History of their Society, and a foundation for its Reconstruction.

“No…” the old man continued, cutting short my mental Wanderings.

“I remember Thoth’s alleyways and avenues. Its dusty restaurants. The perfume of a line of cherry blossoms in the spring.” Some Notion seemed to strike him. “The perfume of a lady…”

He appeared to sense that he had stepped too Far, and didst become again quiet and Reserved.

Anxious to hear more, I didst Beseech him further.

“Some things are best forgotten,” he said.

He had a habit of staring into the distance most Absently as he spoke, and he did so now. He did seem Conflicted, unsure of whether to expound upon this perfumed Lady that was so close to his Heart. He sipped from his cup and didst delay some several Moments. Then he shook his head, as if to put his doubts aside.

“No…” he said. “If I was going to tell the story of Thoth, I would start with the day—”

He strode to the window, seemingly Eager to bring forth the fullest dramatic Weight of his words. But then his eye did seem to catch some scene of dire Significance outside the window, and his eyes widened in Terror.

“The ship…” he said. “You brought it here?”

In his terror, he did become afflicted with a most violent fit of Coughing, and began to shake alarmingly. I joined him at the window and did perceive a great Calamity in motion.

By some unnatural Power, the waters of the sea had gathered around the vessel, and threatened to submerge it in their vile froth. A great Whirlpool formed underneath. The waves did seem to bear an unnatural Darkness in their foam, like the darkness that did suffuse the very wood of the vile Ship.

Surely the Books would be lost! I looked to the old man for help. Surely the king of Thoth, a man of Valor, would be able to assist—I could not salvage the ship and Library on my own. But beside me stood only an old and Downtrodden man, doubled over in fits of pain, in most Pressing need of assistance himself.

To be continued. Like this story?

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The Library of Thoth, Part 2

#books #booty #fantasy #fiction #magic #pirates #Thoth #zombies

THOUSAND.pngTHOUSAND

Read Part 1 here.

On the path away from the city, I came upon a most strange Situation: A resident of Thoth, slowly pulling a large Cart laden with many Books which he had salvaged from the Library. Checking once behind me, to make sure that neither of us were pursued, I followed him at a distance to see where his strange Errand might lead.

The lone soul ended his quest at a cove quite off from the main harbor, upon which was docked a small ship. He proceeded to lead his cart down the rickety Gangplank of the ship and began to unload the salvaged Books onto the Deck.

Feeling it safe to reveal myself, I stepped to the dock and called out a hearty “What, ho!”

The man looked up, not understanding my words but perceiving that I was not one of the wretched Marauders. I desired to beseech of him that I might join him on his voyage, and to demonstrate to him my skill as a seafarer; but before I could form any such gesture, there was a great whoosh and a crack and both of us turned to the horizon.

There, garbed in a cloak of fire and ash surely worse than the Devil’s itself, suspended in the sky, was the cursed Ship.

The Thothian and I, forgetting all barriers in Communication, prepared ourselves to fight. As the marauders were mostly upon the town, there were only some few soldiers left upon the ship. They descended fearsomely down the rigging to meet us on the Shore.

We fought with the combined valiance of our two Nations. I, with British courage, swung my sword and cleaved the skull of the first Savage.

The Thothian, with movements most Eloquent and Strange, like a dance around the Beach, most bewildered the two Invaders left. They loped around in a dizzy daze. He gripped one by the arm and launched him roundly in an Arc above the sea.

As he watched the first invader plunge into the sea, he turned his gaze to his Ship, as a worried Parent upon the Child it loves. His face  filled with Horror. Bolts of fire flew through the air, piercing the sails of the good Thothian’s ship. I turned my gaze to see a Band of horrid Archers firing arrows from the deck of their own ship.

Horror of horrors! But worse: I turned back to my distressed companion just in time to see the third Fiend on the shore, in fiendish burst of Clarity, thrust his sword into the back of my Companion.

He looked at me, and with eyes filled with pleading passion, seemed to entreat me to something. He gestured off the side of the ship towards his vessel, and I saw that its sails were now completely Burned. He indicated the books aboard the ruined vessel most passionately. Then I saw that his life was gone, and his eyes were as dark as those of our horrible Enemies.

The bravery of my fallen Companion somehow overtook me and allowed me to overcome my past Foolishness and Cowardice. I slew the final Monster on the shore. In a burst of passioned Strength, I threw his rotten Body up towards the Archers, and thus did knock two of them into the Sea. Then, remembering the Rope I had previously employed, I slung my sword up to the deck and did Defeat the final archer.

I saw in the flying vessel, despite its terrible Appearance, a much greater prospect for returning to Britain with the Cargo of precious Books. The fiery sails lit up my mind with an uncontrollable Ambition, and I foresaw the riches I would attain when I returned. I began to carry the books from the broken, landed ship to the damnéd skyward one.

From the deck of the Skyward ship, I descended a set of most Demonic and Rickety stairs and stacked the books below board in a kind of Galley. When I came up above board, I found more of those foul and wretched characters scaling the rigging, as if the ship had spawned them from the sea. I brandished my cutlass but it did not much ward them off. I looked above; the fiery sails were ever-billowing as if filled with some ghostly wind; and yet the ship stayed in its place.

I reached down and hooked one of the beastly creatures by a loop of his tattered tunic, and pulled him up onto the deck. I entreated him to tell me how to sail the ship. However, I saw no light of intelligence in his eyes, but only an anger surely brought from Hell; I was no more capable of communicating with him than with the Thothian. I threw him overboard and was quite satisfied with the Splash this produced below.

Possessed by a sudden Impulse, I strode to the fore of the vessel and gripped the Wheel. I found in the grain of its wood a strange Enchantment, and perceived that my mind, bound up with this Magick, could propel the ship to move upon its own accord. I made use of this power and brought the ship away from the Cove. Several Fiends still clinging to the rigging of the ship fell and streamed like ballasts into the dark waters below.

Sailing through the sky, quite away from the terrors of that night, my heart was quite filled with a Triumph that I confess did cloud my Judgment. When this Triumph passed, blown away on the cold wind, I bethought myself that no matter what the value of the portion of the Library I had saved, the burden of whatever curse clung to this wretched ship was surely heavier.

Filled with a great Shame at the thought of my ambition bringing this curse beyond the primitive city of Thoth and to my beloved Great Britain, I changed the ship’s course.

Stay tuned for part three, and remember to follow us on Twitter and Facebook!

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The Library of Thoth

#fantasy

THOUSAND.pngTHOUSAND

It was in November, as my travels were beginning to take their effect on both my Body and my Soul, that I came upon the city of Thoth. I still cannot be sure of how I came to find it, surrounded, as it was, only by infinite wasteland, the numberless villages of insignificant tribes, and hidden among granite cliffs facing an obscure Inlet.

It was unlike anything I had ever seen—its short buildings constructed upon strange principles, its men garbed in strange dress; its language spoken in most shrill Tones.

Finding its people receptive to a foreign Guest, at the first opportunity I could find I had a courtier bring me to the city’s central Library. There I found, in a most modest Edifice, a collection that must have rivaled its counterpart in Alexandria for size; but which was written all in strange Hieroglyphics that I could not decipher.

I was filled with a most fluttering excitement, for reasons twofold: a quite Pure one, of discovering a new Science and Literature that might bestow innumerable Benefits and Joys upon society; and a quite Impure one commingled, a desire for Fame and Riches. With these twin Ambitions upon my heart, I tied a note in most effervescent verse to the foot of the mechanical bird (my Father’s) that I had brought on my travels, and sent it homeward. For a week, I lived in the rustic yet homely Hospitality which the city undertook on my behalf, awaiting the clarions of the British ships blown in on winds of Discovery, laden with ingots of Glory.

Seven nights after I arrived, I awoke in the tavern in which I had been lodged to a most strange and improbable noise—like the moaning of a multitude of corpses. I thought it came from within my dream, but when I awoke I found them scratching the windows and scraping the walls.

The tavernmaster came up and they tore him to shreds. I made it down the stairs by bearing a lantern in front of me, swinging it so as to cleave the mass of bodies that hungered for me as well. I ran outside to find the street filled with an awful light.

I looked to find its source and found a sight upon which mine Eyes and Brain could not agree. A hellish black Ship, the size at least of the flagship of Her Majesty’s armada, hung in the air above the Street. Its sails were made of a strange eternal fire, and in its berth it trailed pennants of black smoke.

Those hellish creatures—in the form of Humans but made of rotting Flesh—descended to the rigging and dropped to the street.

I tied my cutlass to a good strong rope and swung it clockwise around my head, and that kept them off well enough as I made my way to the Harbor.

When I arrived, I immediately discerned that my ship had been burned all to ash. I saw the horde advance upon many ships and burn them, too, in suchlike fashion.

Paralyzed by a fear which I cannot adequately express in this Narrative, I resolved to flee the town on foot, and try to find shelter in one of those primitive Villages. But before my feet would carry me away from that newly accursed place, my heart—filled with that twofold Passion I have previously discussed—bade me check upon the Library.

There I found the very thing I had feared: the hellish Pirates with their torches, laying fire to the bookshelves with most fiendish glee around the corpses of many slain Thothian warriors. Seeing this horrific Sight, I feared that it was the message I sent back home, my desire for Glory, that had brought this Attack upon the city. I feared that I had bestowed the fatal kiss upon its lips.

But more pressingly, I feared for my own life; and thus I turned from this scene, and my legs again resumed their former Purpose, carrying me from the city forevermore.

STAY TUNED FOR PART 2, AND FOLLOW US ON TWITTER! [twitter-follow screen_name=’thousandonest’]

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