A writing challenge for myself, and others, to explore options outside our normal writing sphere. I’ve taken to writing flash fiction – free writes, done in half an hour or less with little editing and under 200 words, if possible.
She walks in moonlight with gentle grace
A coy smile upon her lips
A gentle sway in her hips
She knows he watches from a distance
The heat of his stare a fire upon her skin
A pause mid-step to relish the moment
Turns into a dance of seduction
At first she plays shy, ignoring the pull
She glances at the flowers
And tosses her hair
She hears the quick footsteps of her lover drawing near
Her heart skips a beat
And she waits
The footsteps have stilled
And yet she waits
A soft breeze stirs around her and she slowly turns
An innocent gesture draws his attention
One that stirs desire
She stands in moonlight
The embodiment of his heart’s silent yearning
He takes a step forward and reaches out
To find it all a dream
They thought she was crazy. They said it could never be found, but as she felt the cool draft rush past her as she took each step further down into the darkness, her torch casting deep shadows, she knew they had been fools to doubt her. Even her own family had thought her mad, and she had been forced to make this journey alone, but now none of that mattered. Streaks of light tried their best to break through layers of dirt and ages of disuse. It was a wonder no one had been able to find this place from above; the mountains had shielded it well.
A series of whooshing sounds filled the void and bright orange light burned brighter with each flourish. She took sure steps into the light, avoiding toppled and loose stones. Great arched walkways all converged around a center object. She moved closer to the edge, her torch held high in one hand, a grappling hook in the other, and peered down upon the head of a statue several stories tall. As she did, the ceremonial plate it held roared to life, as did the smaller ones placed around its feet. She felt special, chosen, and held her breath in delight.
She was now The Keeper of The Library; the magical place of knowledge that people traipsed across the wasteland to visit. It was a legacy she was proud to be a part of, even if no one in her family knew how it had actually come into being. They only knew that one of their ancestors had designed the building to house all the great volumes of the world in one place to ensure that no story was ever lost. The books would just appear and the library would grow each passing year to accommodate the progress. Magic had long been absent from the land, but as she stood in the center of the tower, feeling alone, the pages of a fallen volume stirred at her feet and it somehow brought her comfort. She wasn’t truly alone; some of her favorite people lived within the pages here, and she was now their Keeper.
He walked slowly along the bridge, counting the light posts as he went. One, two, three, four – fourth on the right from the Louvre. When they had first added their lock, it had been only one of a handful along the whole length of the bridge. Now the fencing bowed under their weight. He smiled fondly in recollection and at the show of love present before him, but at the same time, felt that now familiar pang of sadness at the thought of her. He had to wonder how many of the other lovers that had once professed their devotion now found themselves in a similar situation. Lost love. He knelt down before the array of metal clasps and nudged a few aside to find his own promise amidst the others. He touched it gently, remembering the glow of her skin in the lamplight, the tug of her lips as she breathlessly laughed at the idea of it all, and the way she smiled after he kissed her. Standing once again to look into the Seine, he wasn’t sure if he should take the next step and join her in peace. Lovers entwined just as these locks…bound together forever?
She woke up to the golden dawn gently rolling through the window, setting everything on fire in its warm glow. With the morning came the realization, the reminder of the previous night. The faintest hint of a satisfied smile crept to the corners of her mouth that she tried to bite back. She stretched languidly, her bare flesh exposed to the golden glow; her peaks and valleys casting shadows on the figure beside her.
Sliding from the inviting warmth of the bed, her impression lingering, she moves silently to the window to take in the view. It’s almost as if she’s seeing it for the first time, it’s slightly different. Maybe it’s the early morning light…maybe it’s her frame of mind. She’d never thought to be satisfied with one person, to find happiness by saying two little words and gaining the world with a new one. She turned to take in the full form of her lover tangled in the sheets, a blush spreading from head to toe, and not from the warmth of the rising sun.
I had fallen hard. Through a roof of a suburban house. Four bedrooms, two and a half baths. It was sort of charming except for the fact that it looked just like every other one on the street. Everything hurt. I hadn’t experienced pain like this in a millennia. Not since the Great Battle of ’02, B.C. The light flicked on behind a closed door at the end of the hall, and the sliver of light grew wider with its opening. A small child holding her cat appeared in the doorway with large eyes. On a second look, no, not a cat.
I walked towards her, hoping to assuage her fears when I had to catch myself from sliding on the hardwood. Looking down, I discovered what had cushioned my fall. Despite my entire existence as a warrior, a vessel of reckoning, I grimaced at the sight. An involuntary shudder caused the loss of a few feathers, heavy in a blood not my own, nor the demon I had been fighting. Kneeling down, I reassured the small human that all would be well. In an instant, I restored all to right. The young woman had her life returned to her, and the memory of the angel in the hallway would be nothing but a bad dream.
It had been made clear, fraternization was frowned upon, but we had been drawn to one another just the same. He was wise, beyond his years, and he was gentle, and he had the best intentions. His eyes were boundless pools of kindness, and his smile was hesitant, but sweet. I was being groomed to lead. I was almost always at the forefront of all of the major events, and I was the one to make the big decisions. I was being hardened to do what had to be done, and I was afraid that what he once found good in me might one day be lost.
The day had been overly long, and we stood together seeking solace, reflecting in silence. With no one around to take notice, we took advantage of the opportunity we had been given. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw his hand draw near, ever so subtly his pinky finger reaching out. I slowly reached out to find the comfort I so desperately needed, and allowed my eyes to find his for the first time in days. My heart stopped in that moment, my cheeks warmed, and my body swayed, longing for more than either of us could give…at present.
Arranged marriages rarely allowed any room for sentimentality, but on the rare occasion, true love could be found. They had been fortunate, although upon their first meeting, neither would have believed it possible. He had had this smug look upon his face, and the arrogance in his overall presence had left something to be desired. She had been a right snob, barely dignifying his presence with a response. It was most fortunate in their case that those first impressions did not represent who they truly were.
When the king asked her husband to lead his troops into battle, the honor of such a request had not failed to instill in their family a deep sense of pride, and fear. They were less than a year into their new life, and he had been away for nearly six months. It had been weeks since she had received any word from the front, and when she heard the knock upon the door late that night, the cold fingers of dread wound their way around her heart and held tight.
She found herself short of breath as her shaking hand reached out to receive the letter. She involuntarily shivered as she began to read the words not in her husband’s hand. She took a long, steadying breath, straightened her back, and offered the messenger a warm meal. She was a Lady, after all.
Do you remember the day we left Earth? Some days it’s all I can think about. That was the day I lost you. I could never have guessed that a simple trip to look at the stars would have led us to this – where we now live among them. Our sky is so dark in comparison, and the stars’ light is often times so faint. Right now I’m staring out a window and I see colors beyond imagining. I am in awe of it all, and it is all I have ever wanted to see, and yet all I want to do is scream at them in the hopes that you will hear me, somewhere out there.
I’m coming for you. I don’t know how yet, but I am. I’ve found myself on a ship with…well, aliens who are currently discussing what to do with me. They found something in my head, a chip, and I am at their mercy. Oh, how I wish you were here.
You are so strong, so much more than I am, which reassures me that you’ll be all right. So just stay that way. If this crew chooses not to help, I’ll figure something out. I’ll find myself a pilot or barter for passage. All I have to do is find a cantina and a handsome rogue with the heart of gold, right?! Oh, gods…we’re so frakked! Sorry. I’ll figure something out. There has to be some sort of human embassy out here, don’t you think? There has to be someone who is willing to help a lost human or two?
Their voices are drawing near. I should go, for now, but I’ll write to you again soon – I have so much to tell you!
The crescent moon’s pale light only added to the already ominous feel of the evening. The fog rolling in from the harbor wound its tendrils along the deserted streets and through the empty alleyways, creating the perfect landscape for a horror story, and a crime. The recent rains made the cobblestones shine, and also helped to wash away the remains of the many foul deeds to be found in this part of town. The pronounced click of the Inspector’s heels on those same stones echoed in the surrounding silence. He was on the hunt.
His long coat kept the chill from the outside at bay, but all he had seen in the past months had induced a permanent chill to be lodged in his spine. He had started to walk differently, more determined. The people were looking to him, but he was finding it increasingly more difficult to look at himself. He needed a clue. He needed answers. He needed resolution. Or he would forever be haunted by his inabilities.
Queen of the Night
She loved the moments just before night fell. Those moments when the world seemed black and white. She escaped into the night, feeling the cool air upon her skin, opening her arms to it, inviting it in. Death followed in her wake, floating behind her like mist. The earth dried up and the trees shrunk back to allow her passage, which pleased her. Despite her absence, they had not forgotten her. All around her was devoid of life, and she reveled in the silence. She was Death’s bride, and if she could, she would scratch her long black nails against the world to sharpen them in the anticipation of her kill. She had slumbered too long, but looked forward to reacquainting herself to the world.
When she had escaped her jailers, she swore to herself that she would never again fall victim to the whims of man. She cut her hair, changed her name, and did what she could to distance herself from her old life. She did not seek out those she once knew, she did not let anyone know of her fate, but instead chose to protect herself. Everyone knew of the Guild, and what they represented, but what their ignorance could not understand was what it meant for those who were a part of it; it was indeed a brotherhood. She would first have to prove herself, and then they would find her. They only sought out those who were truly worthy. She moved to a new town and began her training. She took whatever work she could find, each a learning tool, a lesson towards her goal. It took some time, but she finally received her invitation, and then her real training began.
Shrouded in shadow, swathed in the garb that held both reverence and fear, she slid down the embankment with arms outstretched enjoying the thrill of the freedom in those moments just before she found her mark. With her face masked, they never knew that the girl they once thought a traitor was now their executioner.
All of Thedas knew the outcome of the battle in Denerim, and yet the fates of the Grey Wardens who slayed the beast were still unknown. Cullen’s stomach had been in knots for months since he had learned that the only way to defeat the archdemon was the sacrifice of a Grey Warden’s life. He knew she would do it. She would not hesitate. And he had hated himself for leaving her side.
What a fool he had been to think that he would better serve the Maker across the Waking Sea than with her. He was a warrior and he should have at least fought with her to ensure her victory, instead of running away with his tail tucked between his legs. He was no lion. He was a pup.
There had been no word, and he wallowed in his grief, often finding himself at the Chantry’s doors without even realizing it. He prayed to Andraste for comfort, for forgiveness, for closure – for surely she must have perished. He trained harder than ever, hoping to exhaust himself with the release of the anger that seared his flesh. He wanted to fall into his bed each night without a trace of energy or thought in the hopes of dreamless sleep. He did not want dreams filled with images of her. Sometimes he saw her limp body twisted beneath the talons of a dragon, while other times he saw her smiling sweetly up at him while twisting her fingers in the curls at the nape of his neck. It did not matter the image, for each time he woke up drenched in sweat, terrified that he’d never see her again.
He hadn’t realized how much he cared for her until the moment he heard that the Blight was ended and the bitter taste that filled his mouth had nearly choked him.
And then there was light – a letter.
As he walked with hopeful purpose through the city, he caught the sunlight glint off unfamiliar armor. Cullen’s knees buckled under the weight of his relief. Her eyes swam with unshed tears despite the bright smile that lit up her face. “I wanted to surprise you.”
He barely heard the words because in the next instant he was taking desperate strides across the courtyard, ignoring the curious and strange glances of the onlookers. She followed suit, but her lithe body, not burdened by the weight of heavy armor, allowed her to run into his arms. He crushed her to him.
“I feared the worst.” He whispered harshly, the emotions stirring in him walking a sharp edge. He had been staring into a dark abyss for far too long.
She looked sad then, realizing that he had been mourning her until this moment. “Oh, Cullen. I am so sorry…”
There was nothing else to be said. She had survived. She was in his arms, alive and well and he didn’t care how it had happened. He would forgive her anything; even a pact with a demon, if it meant that she could be here, now.
Their kiss was desperate. Their relationship would always be complicated, for although she had given her heart to another, she found there was still room in it for her lion.
It was said there was a tree as old as the world itself. Traveling in the shadow of the great tree that stood before me, it was easy to believe that such an idea could be possible. This tree stood out from all the others around it. Suppose this was the mother of all trees? Her roots were thick and entrenched in the earth, and it created mounds of emerald green to dot the landscape around her. Her base had grown straight for years before bending to search for the light; her branches were many and had long been reaching for the sun.
It was the kind of tree you would seek shelter in. It was the kind of tree that offered a weary traveler refuge. It was the kind of tree that the wildlings must revere, and therefore, so must I. The eerie silence and the responsive nature of the earth beneath my feet let me know that I was indeed in a place of reverence. I did my best to avoid digging my walking stick into her soil, not wishing to leave my mark, although I did lean upon it and stare up at her in wonder.
First there was a lurch that made everyone grasp for something to hold on to. Then the lights flickered and screams echoed. Finally, the engines roared as they tried to compensate. I never heard the fighting outside. The ship was like a floating planet. It took a day’s journey to travel from one side of the ship to the other. It was rare to see a crewman from another level. I had never even seen the captain in my 10 years of service. I hadn’t seen much of anything beyond the metallic walls of my level.
We were rarely given shore leave, because a ship of this size did not have many a port to come into. There were also many components to be aware of in order to keep her running smoothly, and that is why I found the current situation so bewildering. There must be an explanation for why we were turning on our side? The walls moaned as they buckled under the pressure and the loss of velocity. It would take a number of failures to cause such a chain of events.
As I sat outside on the frozen planet, the rebel fleet overhead, I found myself overcome with grief as I stared at the state of her. She would never fly again.
It’s a common misconception that only the desperate seek me out. The greedy, the vain, the shallow, the scared, the lonely, and even the righteous have found their way to my door. Take a look at the world around you. Do you truly believe that all those people you envy got where they are on their own merit? No, my dear. Actually, that is quite laughable. And before you say a word, let me ponder what category you fit into and what it is youthink you want.
Another misconception – the price. It’s never the same. So worry not that you may need x-amount of dollars, or a first born. My stocks are full and money hardly has its uses where I’m from. No, I will know the exact payment to accept from you.
You’re sweating. You’re worried. You should be. You have but mere moments to retreat. You won’t. I suppose it is the desperate that seek me out. They think they have no alternative. They lack the capacity for hard work, perseverance, mediocrity. That is why you are sitting here yourself…your own shortcomings. So let us strike the deal, and in the blink of an eye you will have all you ever dreamed of. I can’t wait to meet you again, to hear if it was worth it.
We stood on the battlements side by side as we had every day for the past three years. It was going to be a beautiful day. The sun was still low on the horizon, but the sky was clear and the air was crisp. I turned my face skyward and closed my eyes. I took a deep breath hoping to smell the lavender planted in the garden, or the citrus trees that lined the path. The image of my love flashed once before my eyes, as it usually did, a bewitching smile upon the most alluring lips. Had I not looked down, it could be mistaken for any other day.
“Is this one of those times you want me to lie to protect your delicate emotions?” My queen asked slyly. She stood tall with her hands behind her back, her chin defiantly jutted outward, and yet there was that gleam in her eye. She was a clever one, and it was one of the reasons I had stood by her. I unsheathed my sword and stretched my arm, feeling the weight of it. I lowered my gaze to the imposing army marching through the valley. I replied with my own air of nonchalance, “Seems as good a time as any.”
He sat alone in “their place”. The tentacles of dread weaving their destructive way through his mind. It didn’t stop there. The tingling continued down his spine, while it’s icy touch lingered around his heart. She had never been late, even when he expected her to be. After the many long months of separation, he was certain he would have found her running across the field in the hopes she would be running into his open arms. He stared out to the horizon for what felt like hours, trusting that one of those dots would grow larger and take her form. No such luck.
He did not fidget. He sat immobilized with the thoughts of the unknown. What if she did not return? How would he find her? He didn’t even know where she had been. What would he do…without her? His body felt heavy, crushed under the weight of the despair that had quickly materialized. Why did he not give her more credit? Clearly she had been able to take care of herself all this time. He swallowed back the lump that threatened to choke him, when he felt her warm touch. His whole body went slack with a relief that was almost as crushing.
It was quiet, quieter than I expected. Without the engines humming, the normal sounds of operation, or even the sounds of life, it was as if we were walking into a crypt. Perhaps we were. The emergency lights gave off an eerie red glow, while some overhead lights flickered, each played with our vision equally. I swear I could see things moving in the shadows, but I knew it to be a trick of the imagination. We decided to split up, search the vessel for survivors and what may have happened to silence an entire ship and her crew.
I decided to head to the command deck in the hopes of retrieving the captain’s journal and the flight logs. The team would search the rest of this level before we headed further into the belly of the ship together. As I ascended the ladder that would allow me access to the upper deck, I called back in a harsh whisper, “If I need you I’ll give you a signal.” My companions all looked up with inquisitive eyes. “What signal?” “I’ll imitate the scream of a terrified little girl.” To that I received obligatory snorts and the shaking of heads. I winked once and continued upward.
He knew from the moment they had met that he would eventually find himself here – standing in a cell the other had once occupied. They had been playing a game of cat and mouse for years, years beyond comprehension, so it was no wonder one of them had eventually found themselves in such a place. He had lost track of the other sometime in the Victorian era, this must have been where he disappeared. There had been rumor of the man who did not age; he was the inspiration for a number of myths and tales, because he had the unlucky fortune of being caught. It was discovering the source of those stories that had brought him here.
The world continued to move forward, yet this place held the remnants of the world it had once been a part of. It still smelled and felt like it had hundreds of years ago, when it was new. He stood in the center of it, feeling the warmth of the setting sun streaming in upon his face, and smiled to himself. There in the stone, a set of markings had been painstakingly carved. The game was on, again.