Bloodlines #2 October 16, 2012Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: flash fiction, paranormal, serial fiction, serials, virgil
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Shadows moved through the darkened hallway without any light source to cast them. Virgil let his senses brush through the house, and a chill that had nothing to do with the cold air outside sent needles of fear running down his spine. Something in here was pissed, and he had just gotten its undivided attention. The truly unsettling part was that Lares didn’t seem to notice anything amiss. She was one of top mediums working for the Tactical Paranormal Response Unit; she should have sensed the wave of rage rolling through the halls. But there she was, chatting with her cousin Linda as if nothing had happened.
The lights clicked back on and Lares took one of the smaller bags from him. “This way. We used to have sleepovers in this room with our friends from down the hill. There’s a private bathroom, and a side porch if you need to go out for a smoke.” She said that last part with a frown. Lares did not approve of his habit. He didn’t give a rat’s ass what anyone thought about it. It kept his nerves calm when things got weird, which, in their line of work, was pretty much every day.
The room looked like it had once been an office – a roll-top desk sat to one side, and a wire for a phone hung out of the wall next to it. An ancient, dust covered dot-matrix printer sat on the floor, and a pile of old bills and paperwork were stacked on top. There was no sign of a network cable, and a quick check of his cell phone told Virgil there was no wifi within range. Virgil sighed inwardly. So much for contacting one of his pals in HQ to whip up a program to contain the ghost. He hadn’t thought to pack a portable spirit jar, and he’d never gotten the knack of working directly with entities. That was Lares’ job, and she was too upset right now to even try it.He’d just have put up with the poltergeist till morning when he could drive into town and borrow some bandwidth.
Fortunately he still had one of the company’s special chips in his cell phone. The Agency had brought the art of dealing with spirits into the high tech era – the electrical impulses that once ran through the body could now live inside of machines. Once he downloaded the right snippet of code he could simply lure the ghost inside it and keep the specter busy chasing algorithms for awhile. He’d have to recharge it every few hours, but that was better than the alternative.
The ghost, however, was not content to wait till morning to introduce itself. As Virgil tossed their bags onto a small daybed that sat against the far wall, a feeling of rage started seeping into the room. It circled around the edges, probing and shuffling along as if it were a blind creature hunting by sense of smell. Virgil strengthened the shields on his empathic sense, but the feeling would not go away.
“You know, I think I’ll take you up on that offer to have a smoke,” he said to Lares, suddenly desperate for a breath of air. He swung out onto the porch, lighting up one of his unfiltered Lucky Strikes before the door shut behind him. The sensation of being stalked pooled around the door jamb and started crawling out. Virgil moved further down the porch.
It wasn’t until his teeth started to chatter that he shook off his unease. “What the hell are you doing freezing your cojones off out here?” he said to himself. “It’s a haunted house, dumbass. Feelings of dread, a sudden urge to leave? It’s a textbook haunting and you’re letting it push you around.”
Virgil lit up a second cigarette off the butt of the first and collected his thoughts. First step was to talk to the ghost, set the ground rules. He blew out a cloud of nicotine and squared his shoulders. “All right great-granny, grandpa or whoever the hell you are. I get it. You don’t want me messing with your relatives. But Lares asked me to give her auntie a peaceful wake, and I intend to make that happen. I’m not going to hurt anyone, but I am going to make them behave. Are you cool with that?”
The house made an ominous settling noise, almost like a growl.
Virgil blew some more smoke at it. “Grumble all you like, but stay out of it. You’ve been warned.” He tossed both cigarette butts into a trash can that sat to one side, and headed back into the house.
Lares had already unpacked her bags and was wrestling a cot out of a closet. He hurried to give her a hand.
“Feeling better now?” she asked, her thoughts radiating disapproval.
“Not really. I’m getting the distinct impression I’m not welcome here.”
“Oh, don’t let Alex rattle you; he’s always been over-protective,” Lares said. “I think he chased off every boyfriend I ever had.”
She thought Alex was the problem? Virgil glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. She really didn’t sense anything from the house. Then again, she was of the bloodline. It probably wouldn’t bother her at all.
He started to unpack his own bags, using some of the desk shelves to hold his clothes. “Alex is a real peach. On behalf of Caucasian males everywhere, I’d like apologize for everything you had to put up with from him.”
“Thanks,” she said, with a wry smile. “I really do appreciate your coming here, Virgil. I know it’s an awful imposition.”
Virgil waved her off. “Nothing I can’t handle, Lar…Sophie,” he said, remembering at the last second not to use her code-name.
He was glad he did, because a moment later a young, curvy brunette sauntered in without so much as knocking. She wore painted-on jeans, a tight sweater, and a look that would have been sultry if he hadn’t been able to read how petty her thoughts were.
“Hello, Soph. I just wanted to let you know you’ll be on the ten o’clock shift to sit with Auntie. Daddy will take over at midnight, if he gets here by then.”
“Thanks. We’ll be out as soon as we finish unpacking,” Lares said, the dismissal obvious in her voice.
Supertramp ignored it and gave Virgil a coy look. “Aren’t you going to introduce me?”
“I’m Virgil,” he said, stepping between the two of them, “and you must be Desiree.”
“That’s right. Dinner will be ready soon.” She looked Virgil up and down, and all but licked her chops before sauntering back out.
Virgil shut the door behind her. “Dare I ask what’s on the menu?”
Lares made a sour face. “I’d watch yourself. She has the fastest hands in the county.”
Virgil shrugged. “I’ve handled worse out in LA. She’d get eaten alive at some of the parties I’ve been to.”
They headed out to the dining room, their footsteps dogged by the angry presence. The words “eaten alive” seemed to hang in Virgil’s mind. He shoved the thought away, along with the dread that came with it. If his co-workers ever got wind of him getting spooked by an old school haunt he’d never live it down…
The Wanderer’s Tale – Part 6 October 13, 2012Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: #fridayflash, flash fiction, Nox and Grimm, serial fiction, serials
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For Grey, the long journey home was fraught with worry and unanswered questions. Had the wyverns left the plains once their nests were destroyed? Had there been any attacks on his tribe while they were away? Would they even make it back home alive?
That last question was the one that haunted his days – two thirds of the men, including his father had been scratched by tiny spines that lined the female wyvern’s bodies. The poison that coated them took hold so slowly that they hadn’t even noticed it at first, creeping through their bodies in a silent assault. It started with a tingling in the hands and feet one day, and moved on to a tightness in the lungs the next. Then a dry cough set in, and their lungs began to burn like there was a fire in them. Finally, their strength slowly bled away as they struggled to breathe, leaving them too exhausted to move on their own.
Grey and the few others left standing cobbled together stretchers for the injured, with the Wind kin keeping them afloat and the Mountain kin towing them.
Tairwyn trudged alongside Grey, shaking his head at the pitiful train behind them. “It’s hitting your people harder than mine. I’d almost swear the damn beasties were designed to kill off Wind kindreds.”
“Nothing about wyverns would surprise me anymore,” Grey said. “Although, why would anyone want to kill us?”
“Land,” said Tairwyn, with a sage nod. “The things keep gobbling up your territory ‘till your stuck in that canyon, some of the poorest land around.”
Grey thought about that, but it still didn’t fit. “Maybe, but if so then why haven’t their masters come to claim the plains? We couldn’t stop them.”
Tairwyn twirled one of his mustachios thoughtfully. “Now there you have me. Ah well, at least theorizing passes the time.”
A stray puff of wind caught Grey’s attention. He stopped and gripped Tairwyn’s shoulder. “Do you smell that? Someone’s got a stew on! We’re almost home!”
“Your nose is as keen as that hound of yours!” Tairwyn laughed. “Odd though, if we’re close enough to smell dinner, why aren’t there any guards?”
“If the wyverns are gone, they’ll all be outside,” Grey said, hoping that was the truth. But he motioned the rest of the train to a halt anyway. “Wait here, I’ll fly ahead and find out.”
He rocketed through the tunnels, making his way steadily upwards. The quiet was ominous, broken only by the faint echoes of coughs from the men. He sped onwards, his concern growing as the sound of coughing did not fade. Instead, it grew louder ahead of him. He flew past empty sleeping chambers and kitchens and deserted children’s playrooms, heading up and up until the only place left was the central council chamber.
The scene that awaited him there was enough to wring tears of pity from a stone. Row upon row of sleeping furs covered the floor, each filled with a quietly coughing occupant. His whole tribe was there. Every single child was sick, their cheeks sunken and their skin had a greyish tinge. There were a few men and women moving listlessly among the patients, the dry cough shaking them.
One of them lifted her head and squinted through the dim light coming from a makeshift hearth she was tending. “Aurengrey? Please tell me that’s you and not a hallucination!”
It was his mother. Grey rushed over and gave her a hug. “I’m home, mom. We’re all home.” He held her as she burst into tears. “What happened here?” he asked.
“What always happens to us? The wyverns came,” Merina said bitterly, wiping her cheeks. “They couldn’t get in, thanks to the men Tairwyn left here and our own hunters. So they dropped the carcasses of females into the cisterns and every lake and spring, fouling our water supply. By the time we realized what was making us sick it was too late.” She stopped for a moment as a cough shook her. “Your hounds tried to warn us, even pulling the children away from the cisterns. I thought they were simply playing too rough and shooed them off. I should have known better.”
“None of us could have predicted they’d do this,” Grey said, looking around in dismay. “I had better go get the rest of them. We’ll figure out what to do when we’re all gathered here.”
Merina nodded wearily. “I’ll let the Mountain kin know you are back, they’ve been keeping watch with the hounds.”
Everyone gathered in the central chamber. Grey took his usual place, with Cavall pressed up against his legs. The big hound had been so happy to see his master he had nearly bowled Grey over with his joyful greeting.
Brennan took the floor, the once fiery leader of Tempest bowed over and walking with a stick. “We will need to organize hunting parties. We need fresh food if we’re to survive this.”
Tairwyn stood up. “You need medicine. We still have a bit from the last group of traders that was brave enough to pass through. I’ll twist my chief’s arm till he gives it up,” he said, with a fierce grin. The smile faded as he looked around. “Not sure it’s enough to cure all of you, but a smaller dose will get you by ‘till we think of something else.”
“When was the last time you saw the traders?” Brennan asked.
“Over a year ago,” Tairwyn said, wincing. “Too much risk, not enough profit for them. Still, no one’s seen hide nor horn of a wyvern since they left their nasty parting gift. If we could get word to the coast maybe we could lure the traders back.”
Grey had listened quietly to the discussion, a plan forming in his mind. He pushed Cavall’s head off his lap and stood up. “My grandfather is captain of a trade ship. If I can get word to him, he’ll help us.”
“Ah, but can you find him laddie?” Tairwyn asked. “Tis the wrong season for sailing into the southerly ports.”
“Then I’ll fly north. The upper air moves fast, I can get to the coast in a few days.”
Merina spoke up from where she sat, holding hands with Grey’s father. “I have a map of every port he visits. He gave it to me in case I got tired of Aurelius and wanted to come home,” she said, leaning down to kiss her husbands’ forehead. “He never has forgiven you for stealing me away. But he won’t deny aid to my son.”
Brennan tapped his stick to get their attention. “We have a plan then. Let’s move quickly while we still can.”
It did not take long for Grey to pack. He found the map in a waterproofed case, the unbroken seals on the lid a testament to his mother’s love for her husband. She never once considered leaving, despite all the hardships they had suffered. There was a pouch full of gold coins in the bottom, the kind traders used that could be broken into smaller bits, and a note of credit to buy passage on any ship. Grey tucked it all into a backpack along with food and a blanket, and bundled himself up in his warmest furs and leathers. He topped it off with a pair of hunting spears slung across his back in an X.
He was just rolling his shoulders to settle everything in when a knock came at the doorway. Tairwyn let himself in. “Good luck, laddie. You’re going to have to fly fast to catch the traders before they head off north. It’s summer up across the equator, they won’t linger here.”
“I know. That’s why I’m not wearing armor, it’ll slow me down,” Grey said.
“Hmm, well, I don’t know as those pig-stickers of yours will be enough if you get up close and personal with a wyvern,” Tairwyn said. He unbelted his sword and handed it to Grey. “Here, remember what I told you. The sides are sharp for a reason.”
Grey looked at him in astonishment. “I can’t take this; you’ll need it if they wyverns come back!”
“Bah, I can always borrow another one. And it’s just a loan, mind you, I expect it back soon enough.”
Grey put it on the sword, shifting it until he could move without it unbalancing his flight. “Here’s hoping I won’t need it.”
Tairwyn gave a hearty chuckle and smacked him on the back. “Aye, since you’re more likely to cut off your own head with it! Still, it may come in handy.”
They walked up the tunnel that led to the canyon, Cavall close on Grey’s heels. Tairwyn clasped forearms with him. “Safe journey. I wish I could go with you, haven’t seen the ocean in years.” He reached down to ruffle Cavall’s ears, and got his hand licked for his efforts. “You watch your master’s back now, eh?”
Grey started gathering the winds, excitement bubbling up in him. As dire as the situation was he couldn’t help but look forward to finally getting out and seeing the world. “We’ll be back before you know it,” he said, giving the thumbs up.
Tairwyn stepped back as the Wind picked up speed, swirling around the young man and his hound. The pressure built, making the stones around them shake until at finally let loose in a deafening roar.
Grey and Cavall shot upwards like a slung stone, cutting through the clouds to burst out into the high, thin upper air. Man and beast were both grinning from the feel of the wind on their faces. The fast moving winds caught them and they were off, hurtling at break-neck speeds to the east…
Bloodlines #1 October 9, 2012Posted by techtigger in Uncategorized.
Tags: flash ficton, paranormal, serial fiction, serials, virgil
Virgil wanted to spend the weekend with a grieving family about as much as he wanted his skin flayed off in one inch strips. He glanced over at the woman driving their car, sunglasses hiding the tears welling in her dark brown eyes. If anyone but Lares had asked him to attend a funeral he would have told them how far up their ass they could shove the idea. Forget all those actors playing psychics on TV; real psychics avoided the bereaved like the plague. He had already locked down his empathic sense to the point where it was giving him a headache.
He owed her, though. Their job at the Tactical Paranormal Response Unit was damned dangerous, and she had saved his bacon on more than one occasion. He just wished she had picked some other reason—any other reason—to call in the debt.
Lares guided the car off the highway onto a snow covered exit ramp. The sedan held gamely to the road despite a few icy patches, and they cruised along tree lined streets into a picturesque downtown.
“Aunt Honora’s house was always so pretty in winter time,” she said. “The wake will be held there instead of at a funeral home. She would have wanted it that way.”
Virgil hardened his psy-shields against the flood of emotions that those words had brought out in her. “Didn’t you say her place was haunted?” he said, trying to steer the conversation to a safer topic.
“Yes, but it’s nothing serious. Those ghosts are lightweights compared to the ones we work with.”
Virgil snorted in disbelief. “I’m sure they’re tame as kittens.”
Lares gave him a wan smile. “Ghosts I can handle. I’m more worried about the living. Normally I’d be the one who keeps things civil, but I may be a little distracted.”
“Don’t worry your pretty little head about it. The living I can deal with,” Virgil said, smiling to hide his dismay. Distracted didn’t cover what he was sensing from her. It was more like Issues, with a capital I. And that meant the rest of the family was going to be a disaster waiting to happen. But it was too late to back out now.
As they headed into the hills outside of town the trees leaned over the road, blocking the grey sky from view. Lares made a turn onto a steep, slushy road, and the tires spun as they worked to find traction. She turned into the skid, keeping the car from fishtailing too badly, and Virgil clamped down on his nervous thoughts to keep from projecting anything that might distract her. A few hairy minutes later they made another turn down a long driveway that only had one pair of tire tracks cut into the white blanket of snow.
The first thing Virgil noticed as they pulled up to the house was how oppressively quiet it was. Even with his psy-shields up he always heard the ever-present rush of people’s thoughts around him—thousands of them in a low, endless roar like an ocean tide. Not here. There were only a few faint whispers of thought from deep within the house. He popped open the car door, and the icy cold air hit his lungs in a frozen sucker punch. He wheezed and his breath came out in a white plume. The silence weighed down on everything—the snow laden branches of the pine trees bowed beneath it, and a thick layer of snow and ice sagged down over the eaves of the faded old Victorian, making the house seem to frown at him.
Lares took a deep breath and smiled. “Isn’t it lovely? It’s just like I remembered it.”
Virgil moved to get the bags from the trunk, firmly telling himself that the icicles over the porch did not look like teeth. “Sure, it’s a Hallmark moment waiting to happen.”
He wasn’t sure if Lares had missed the sarcasm or was ignoring it. “Wait till you see the inside,” she said, slinging her purse over her shoulder and heading up the stairs to the porch. “It’s an authentic painted lady, on the register of historic houses. It’s been in our family since the mid-1800s.” She rang the doorbell, and a set of chimes bonged slightly out of key.
“Are the original owners still here?” he asked, giving the brooding façade a wary look.
The door opened before she could answer him. The light that spilled out was cheerful enough, as was the motherly brunette who answered the door. She held it open and simultaneously pulled Lares into a one-armed hug. “Sophie, it’s so good to see you again! I only wish it was under better circumstances.”
Sophie? Virgil filed away that bit of info as he shuffled in after her. He knew that Lares wasn’t her real name, any more than Virgil was his. The Agency always used Greco-Roman code names for their operatives. He just hadn’t realized how little he knew about her, despite all the years they had worked together. He certainly hadn’t known she had any family besides her father, until the call came about her aunt’s death.
He looked over the group waiting for them in the hallway – the deceased’s side of the family was white. Lares took after her father, a soft-spoken southerner who taught foreign languages at a university in Georgia. The guarded looks Virgil got as he lugged their bags inside spoke volumes for how the family felt about Lares’ mixed heritage. He was beginning to see why she didn’t talk about them.
A burly man with a buzz-cut, dressed in fatigue pants and a white t-shirt pushed past a gaggle of kids. “You goin’ to introduce us to your ‘friend’, Soph?”
Virgil caught a quick burst of thoughts from him. ::scruffy blond boy-toy probably slacker/loser Sophie slumming again::
Oh yeah, Virgil thought. This was going to be a fun weekend.
Lares pasted on a false, bright smile. “I’m sorry, Alex, everyone, this is Virgil. He’s my business partner.”
Alex gave Virgil a handshake that was more of a vice-grip than a welcome. “You never did tell us what kind of business you were in.”
The motherly woman let out an exasperated sound. “Alex, we are all upset enough without your macho nonsense. Mother would be ashamed of you, acting like this toward a guest.” She gave Virgil a more polite handshake. “You are very welcome here, Virgil. I’m Linda, Sophie’s cousin. Honora was my and Alex’s mother. Desiree is in the kitchen. She’s Uncle Bryant’s daughter, and he’ll be here later tonight. The three boys there are Alex’s brood, Alex Jr., Danny, and Tommy.”
Virgil quickly memorized the family tree, a trick he had learned in his first career as an actor. He was always amused at how often that early PR training came in handy while working for the government. “Thank you, Linda,” he said, giving her his best Hollywood smile. “I appreciate you letting me stay here for the night, but I don’t want to intrude on your grief. Just show me where to put the bags and I’ll stay out from underfoot. You won’t even know I’m here.” Which was the literal truth. He planned on putting up a psychic no-fly zone around his room to keep the nosy relatives out.
Lares gave him a grateful look as he smoothed things over. “You said I’d have the ground floor bedroom, right, Linda? There’s room for a cot in there, and it won’t be the first time Virgil and I have had to bunk in the same room.”
Virgil sighed inwardly at the dirty look buzz-cut Alex gave him. He was tired, cold, and all he wanted was a freaking cigarette. He had no patience left for a prejudiced rube, and he sent out a telepathic suggestion to make Alex find something else to do.
The reaction was immediate, and not exactly what he had planned. The front door banged open and shut behind him, and shadows danced along the hallway just before the lights flickered and died. Alex cussed about the crappy fuse box and stomped off to find it. His boys whooped and ran into the depths of the house, crashing into things that sounded expensive.
Then again, maybe it wasn’t the boys smashing things. The shadows had not matched the people standing next to them…
A Bit of Paranormal Fun – and a New Serial! October 9, 2012Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: flash ficton, paranormal, serial fiction, serials, virgil
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Hey everyone! Halloween is coming soon and, being a huge fan of all things ghostly, I have decided to celebrate my favorite time of year with a brand new serial! Woohoo! Don’t worry, Nox and Grimm is not going anywhere, that will still post friday nights. The new series will post on tuesdays as part of #tuesdayserial, and will feature the characters from the paranormal espionage novel I’m working on. (Yes, more Virgil!)
So watch this space – Bloodlines #1 premiers tomorrow
Write What You Know – new blog post at #amwriting October 8, 2012Posted by techtigger in writing.
Tags: blog, writing
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I’m always excited when I get asked to do a guest blog, and even moreso today since I’ve been asked to take part in the relaunch of the updated #amwriting website! Check out my new writing blog post - “Write What You Know – but what does that really mean?” Includes some tips for fantasy/sci-fi writers
Hope you enjoy it!
The Wanderer’s Tale – Part 5 October 6, 2012Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: #fridayflash, flash fiction, Nox and Grimm
Grey suddenly understood why animals freeze when a predator swoops down on them. It’s that moment of indecision, do I flee or fight, that holds them in place.
He hovered near the edge of the crater, the wyvern Queen roaring toward him with her jaws agape. Overhead, beyond his Wind barrier the male wyverns circled. If he fled and saved himself, the barrier would break and the males would dive down to annihilate the rest of the raiding party. If he stayed, the Queen would eat him and the barrier would break anyway, though his death might buy a few precious moments for everyone else to run.
All these thoughts ran through his mind between one heartbeat and the next, as the Wind barrier swirled overhead like a great glass eye…and the answer hit him like a thunderbolt.
He created a small hole in the middle of the barrier, like the eye of a tornado, and shot up through it.
The queen was so close on his heels that she smashed into the barrier with enough force to make it bow outwards and smack into Grey as he darted through. It bounced him up like a child’s ball off a paddle, straight into the middle of the startled males. He let out a small, hysterical laugh as he got to eye-level with the huge predators, and let himself fall back down before they could recover enough to snap up the snack that had appeared in their midst.
Grey turned in mid-air to guide his fall back through the small hole, only to see the Queen still circling beneath the barrier. She hadn’t hit hard it enough to be stunned. “Oh, Hel,” he said. There wasn’t enough time or clear air for him to avoid her.
He thought he was a goner, but just as he tumbled through the hole something distracted the queen. A chunk of rock smacked into her chest, and she turned to look down with an angry hiss. Grey managed one small puff of Wind to steer with, and landed right on top of her snout.
The Queen let out an ear-splitting shriek and whipped her head side to side. Grey grabbed onto the softer skin around her nostrils to hang on, gagging from the fetid, charnel smell of her breath. The beast barrel rolled in mid-air, with Grey hanging on for dear life. If he let go this close to her mouth she’d nab him faster than a striking snake.
To make matters worse the maneuver also dropped them away from the barrier. Grey began to shake as he struggled to maintain the Wind casting over the widening distance. His strength was quickly running out. He yelled to the men below, “Get out! The barrier’s going to break, RUN!”
Far below, small figures streamed toward the hole the Mountain kin had made in the crater floor. Two of them were heading upwards however, and Grey recognized his father, and Tairwyn.
Aurelius spun around and made a throwing gesture, and Tairwyn let out a whoop as a gust of Wind lobbed him up onto the Queen’s neck. The Mountain kin landed with a resounding thump, a grin splitting his face. “Wrestling a wyvern! Way to go, laddie!”
Aurelius circled around the Queen, dodging wings and her flailing tail stinger to get closer to her head. “Aurengrey, when I give the word you let that barrier go and jump!”
Grey didn’t get a chance to reply. Tairwyn had drawn his sword and was chopping away at the Queen’s neck, sending her into even more wild aerobatics. “Hah, you can’t do this with one of your pig-stickers, eh? Swords are the way to go!”
Aurelius spiraled around with them, one of the big hunting spears balanced in his hand. He circled up over the Queen’s head, paused to take aim and let it fly with a whistled Wind casting to speed its flight. “Now, Grey!”
Grey dropped the casting and pushed away from the Queen. Tairwyn did the same, leaping off her back out into space. Aurelius’ spear hit the beast in the eye and buried itself deep in her skull.
The sound of her death cry was surprisingly quiet. The males roared overhead, deafening in comparison. They arrowed down into the crater, but they tangled in each other’s wings in their rush to get inside.
Grey frantically summoned some Wind to try and avoid the thrashing behemoth beside him. The Queen was dying but she seemed determined to take him out with her. Grey bobbed up, dived to the left then juked right to dodge a swipe from her tail. Something pushed at his back and he nearly jumped out of his skin, but it was only Aurelius sending a gust of Wind to nudge him out of harms’ way. Grey, utterly exhausted, let the Wind pick him up and carry him to the safety of the tunnels.
The Mountain kindreds shut the hole behind him, and not a moment too soon. The males landed and started tearing at the ground to try and dig them out. Grey hazily watched as his father organized the Wind tribes, lifting up everyone and sending them zooming through the tunnels. Tairwyn was somewhere in the back, working with his men to collapse the tunnels behind them. An hour later they finally came to a stop – battered, exhausted, but elated as well. For the first time ever, they had come out of a fight with the wyverns without a single casualty.
Tairwyn flopped down beside Grey. “That was some fine work back there, lad. We hadn’t counted on the males being so close. Nasty buggers; scales harder than diamonds. Even my trusty sword won’t cut through them.”
“That’s why we have spears,” Grey said, with a challenging grin. “Ready to learn how to use one yet?”
Tairwyn chuckled. “Aye, lad. The deal’s still on.”
Grey leaned his head back against the cold stone of the tunnel wall and closed his tired eyes. “Do you think this will get rid of them?”
“No,” Tairwyn said, “I’d say we merely bought some time to prepare. But I hope I’m wrong.”
“There has to be a way,” Grey said, the old anger still burning deep inside him. “I’ll find a way…”
Serial Fiction Roundtable October 4, 2012Posted by techtigger in interview, writing.
Tags: serial fiction, serials
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This week I had the honor of taking part in the first of a series of roundtable discussions about publishing Serial Fiction, hosted by the wonderful folks at #TuesdaySerial. Here’s the video (i come in about halfway through, my day job made me late - doh!). Lots of great insight, and a lot of fun too.
The Wanderer’s Tale – Part 4 September 28, 2012Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: #fridayflash, flash fiction, Nox and Grimm
(grimm’s backstory continues…)
Six days without seeing the sky felt like a lifetime to Grey. The tunnels stretched on endlessly behind them, and day after day the Mountain kin melted away the rocks in front of them. The Wind tribes did their part as well, taking turns keeping the air fresh and silencing their movements. Every so often Tairwyn would call a halt, assuring them it was night in the world above and they would all sit on the damp, chill ground and talk quietly over a dinner of dried meat and fruit.
Grey looked at the shriveled winter apple in his hands and sighed. “A week ago I would have given an arm for one of these.”
Tairwyn laughed and handed him a canteen of water. “A man can get tired of eating anything three times a day, every day. Still, we’re almost there.”
“Thank goodness,” Grey said. “Are you sure you don’t want to trade in those swords for some of our spears? You’re going to have to get awfully close to the wyverns to use them.”
“Bah, what’s the point of fighting the enemy if you can’t look ‘em in the eye?” Tairwyn said, flashing a broad grin from beneath his drooping mustachios. “Besides, if one of them tries to take a bite of me I’ll just turn to stone and break their teeth, and carve ‘em up nicely after!” He drew his sword and made a few quick, smooth cuts in the air with it. “It’s a pretty thing, hey? You want to try it, laddie?”
Grey took the proffered hilt of the sword and gave it a few quick jabs. The metal felt strange in his hands, though the blade was so perfectly balanced that he barely felt the weight of it.
Tairwyn shook his head. “Nah, it’s not one of your pig-stickers. Why else do we trouble to sharpen the sides if not to use ‘em?” He took the sword back and made a few cuts at a much slower speed. “You see? Now try that.”
Grey managed it, though with a lot less grace. He shook his head and handed it back with a rueful smile. “I think I’ll stick to what I know.”
“It never hurts to learn a new thing,” Tairwyn said, as he slid the blade back into its sheath. “Tell you what, if the wyverns don’t eat us I’ll make you a deal. You show me how to use those great bloody spears of yours, and I’ll teach you the way of the blade. Sound fair?”
“It’s a deal!” Grey said, and they shook hands on it.
The seventh day started as black as all the others, there in the deep caverns beneath the earth. They were close enough now that they only lit one lantern, and moved slowly to avoid alerting their quarry. Grey should have been tired, he had barely slept, but the only thing he felt was anticipation. He had waited ten long years to avenge all those who had died. He gripped his spear and readied a volley of lethal air castings.
Tairwyn gave the signal, pointing up and motioning the Wind kindreds back. The rest of the Mountain kin stood in a circle with their hands on the rock above. Tairwyn counted out on his fingers – three…two…one…
The earth overhead groaned, twisted, and a circle of rock crashed down in their midst. The ruins of a nest were tangled in the rubble and the Mountain kin slashed down with their swords to destroy any eggs left unbroken. At the same time the Wind tribes roared up through the opening. Air castings shot out in all directions, smashing young wyverns and soft-scaled females into the walls.
The noise was deafening, shrieks of wind and wyverns melding together in an unholy chorus, punctuated by the breaking of bones and exploding rock as the Mountain kin joined the fray, hurling boulders up from below. Grey shot upwards, drawing in air from above and sending it whirling round in a deadly cyclone, the force of it ripping more rock from the crater walls to smash into the panicked monsters.
A bellow of rage echoed out from a side cavern, and the biggest wyvern Grey had ever seen crawled out. For one moment its huge, dark eyes met his, then it lifted its head and wailed. The crater magnified the sound and it echoed out for miles…to be answered by distant shrieks.
“Oh no. That’s the queen!” Grey spun around in the air and yelled down to Aurelius. “Father! She’s calling back the males!”
Aurelius was fighting off a pair of juveniles, whirling like a dervish to avoid their snapping jaws and the long, barbed stings in their tails. He yelled over his shoulder, “Buy us time!”
Grey knew exactly what to do. He raced around the edge of the crater, stopping just long enough to scratch casting marks at regular intervals around the rim. He had done the same thing to seal tunnel entrances behind him, but he had never tried it on an opening this large before. There was no time to test his work, however. He could hear the enraged cries of the males getting closer.
Grey hovered in the middle of the crater, closed his eyes and summoned the Wind. The element filled his mind, flowed through him and out, touching each mark and picking up speed. The sound of it drowned out the noise of the raging battle below, and for a moment he hung suspended between heaven and earth, the crystalline sound shivering in the air around him, through him – and then he let it go.
The crater rung like a bell, and the air solidified overhead in an invisible dome. An incredulous smile lit up Grey’s face. “I did it. I did it!” He poured more energy into the barrier, and laughed as the male wyverns bounced off it and tumbled down the mountainside. “Father, you were right! The bowl of the crater works perfectly to magnify the casting!”
He could see his father yelling something back, but with the sound of the casting still ringing in his ears he couldn’t hear what he said. Grey looked up, and saw the male wyverns circling, their baleful eyes riveted on him. “Why did they stop?”
He looked back down to find his father, and saw a nightmare coming up at him instead. The queen had gotten airborne, and was heading straight for him…
The Wanderer’s Tale, Part 3 September 19, 2012Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: #fridayflash, flash fiction, Nox and Grimm
Sorry about the delay, didn’t realize my posts weren’t auto publishing while I was on vacation. Doh! But here it is, part 3 of Grimm’s backstory
Every single member of the Wind tribes gathered in the broad, low ceilinged cavern that served as their meeting hall. Grey looked around, noticing the gaps in their ranks. There were so few of them left. All told there might be two dozen fit for the raid on the wyvern’s lairs. Maybe three, if a some of the elders insisted on joining them, and a few had. Anger boiled up inside him for everyone they had lost, but there was nowhere for it to go. So he swallowed it back down like he always did, and let it form a cold lump in his chest.
His father stood in the center of the room, the captured egg in his hands. “They are hiding in the crater of an extinct volcano, four days flight to our north,” Aurelius said. “It is filled with nests, young just testing their wings and nesting females. The female’s scales are not so tough as the males. They act a lot like bees, with just a few queens reproducing while other drone females attend them and the eggs. If we wipe the females out, the males will have to leave to find new mates.”
Raynard sat to one side, at the head of the remnants of Tribe Gale. He looked doubtfully at the egg. “You guess this, but do you know it? And how exactly do we get there without being torn to shreds the minute we step foot outside?”
“I’d say young Grey gave us a pretty good example today of how to deal with them,” Brennan said, and several of the hunters of Tempest clapped their hands and whistled in agreement. Brennan clenched his fist and shook it at Raynard. “Find your spine, man! This is our chance to take our homes back!”
“Or die trying,” Raynard said caustically. “I’ll ask again. How do we get there?”
Aurelius smiled. “Underground.”
Raynard rolled his eyes. “Oh yes, we’ll just walk through solid rock for four days – “
“-exactly.” Grey said, cutting in. He was sick to death of the old man’s gripes. He walked down to the floor to stand with his father, his hound at his heel. “We barter with the Mountain Kindreds for a new tunnel.”
“Barter with what? Our threadbare clothes?”
Grey put a hand on Cavall’s head, and the hound thumped his tail on the ground. “My friend here is the proud father of five pups. The chief of High Peaks has admired him often, and tried to buy him from me. They could use some guards to warn them when juvenile wyverns come crawling in their caves, looking for a snack.”
Brennan whooped and pounded his spear butt into the ground. “Yes! We pop up, wipe out their nests and take off before they ever knew what hit them!
Aurelius and Grey shared matching smiles. “We rather thought you’d like the idea,” Aurelius said.
Raynard still looked doubtful, but reluctantly agreed. “If old Tamlyn agree’s, Gale will join the raid.”
It took a week to get word to the mountain clans, but the wait paid off. The reply from Chief Tamlyn was brought by ten seasoned warriors, who he sent to go along on the raid. Grey was on lookout when they arrived, and quickly read the missive.
“Ach, I’ll do anything to rid us of those scaly bastards. And the worst part is you can’t even eat them. Give ‘em to Hel, boys! Maybe he’ll find a use for ‘em, cause for sure we can’t!
– Tamlyn, of the Mountains.”
Grey laughed when he finished reading. “Colorful fellow, isn’t he?”
“Aye, our chief is that, amongst other things,” the leader of the warriors said, a cheerful grin lighting up his florid face. Tairwyn was the chief’s cousin, and every bit as colorful as his kin. He had drooping mustachios and spiky, brownish-red hair. He was even broader through the shoulders than Grey, and wore his heavy metal armor as if it was light as a feather. “So, my young friend, are ye ready to deal out some payback?”
“I’ve been ready for ten years,” Grey said, with feeling.
Tairwyn clapped him on the back hard enough to rock him on his heels. “Whoo, I like you, laddie! You’ve got some spirit in you!”
“Amongst other things,” Grey said, with a fierce grin.
Tairwyn threw back his head and roared with laughter. “Aye, we’ll get along just fine!”
Grey led them down to where the raiders were preparing for the long walk through the dark tunnels. Each had a pack with a share of the food, water, tallow candles and other small, easily carried supplies.
Aurelius greeted the Mountain kin with a broad smile and clasped forearms with him. “Tairwyn! You are most welcome!
“Couldn’t keep me away,” Tairwyn said. He looked around, and stroked his mustachios thoughtfully. “You sure these folks are up to it? No offence, but yer all looking a mite rough ‘round the edges.”
“Waiting won’t change that,” Aurelius said. “Don’t worry about us, we’ll keep up. Matter of fact, we’ll be ready to go as soon as you’ve rested a bit.”
Tairwyn let out an amused snort. “We’re ready now. Let’s go wreck some havoc, hey?”
Aurelius waved his spear in a circle over his head to get everyone’s attention, and they all settled down in quiet anticipation. “It’s time. Go silent once we reach the canyon floor. Those things can hear echoes for a long way underground.”
The way to the exit was lined with everyone who would not, or could not go. Family held their loved ones close, and those without relatives shook everyone’s hands and wished them well. Grey’s mother was nearest to the entrance to the lower tunnels, and she reached up to brush a bit of his hair from his face.
“I wish you wouldn’t go. You’re still a boy, Aurengrey,” Merina said, her face lined with worry.
Grey gave her a hug. “I’ll be fine, mom. I’ll come back, I promise.”
Aurelius caught up to them, and gave his wife a kiss. “He’s as good a fighter as I am, dear heart. We need him. “
“I know. But I don’t have to like it.” She reluctantly stepped back, and stayed there until every last one of the raiding party had gone by. “I love you both.”
They waved, and took the lead into the dank, dripping tunnels, far from the winds that were their element.
The Wanderer’s Tale – Part 2 August 31, 2012Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: #fridayflash, flash fiction, Nox and Grimm
1 comment so far
(the mini-series with Grimm’s origin story continues!)
Ten years wrought terrible changes on the people of the winds. Aurelius’ prediction that more wyverns would come proved to be more accurate than he ever could have imagined. They kept coming, first in flights of four to six, then tens and twenties, until the skies were black with leathery wings. At first the tribes had tried to stand and fight, but they were soon outnumbered. The herds that were the lifeblood of the tribes dwindled and the Air kin starved. Finally, they were forced to give up the open air, and retreated to caves found in the sides of a deep canyon that stretched across the western reaches of the plains.
The years had wrought changes in Grey as well. At sixteen years old he was already as tall as his father, although he still had that unfinished look that told of more growth spurts to come. He now wore armor made of wyvern scales, and kept a heavy barbed spear near to hand. One thing had not changed, however, he still had a hound by his side. Cavall was a wolf-hound, one of the huge mixed breeds Aurelius was training. The shaggy beasts were a cross between the swift, sleek runners of Grimm’s childhood and the tough, muscular dire wolves of the far southern mountains.
Grey sat to one side of the cavern on an outcrop of rock, fondling the hound’s ears and listening to the endless arguments of his elders. He rather wished they were more like the hound, quiet and useful. Their pointless bickering was getting on his nerves.
Raynard, the chieftain of Gale was the main instigator today. He shook his greying head in profound disapproval. “What good is fighting anymore? We tried that and look at us now! There are more old men and half-grown boys in our ranks than solid fighters.”
Brennan of Tempest was barely more than a ‘half-grown boys,’ but he was the oldest surviving member of his tribe, which gave him a place on the council. He crossed his arms and returned Raynards glare. “We can’t sit here and starve, either. We have to take back our lands!”
“We can move again,” Raynard said. “The herds have moved north, and we should follow them as we always have. The traders agree, things are not so bad in other regions.”
“Yes, it’s always better somewhere else,” Brennen said, his voice dripping with scorn. “I should think a man your age would know better than to believe traders’ tales.”
“Watch your tongue, whelp!” Raynard snapped. He rounded on Grey. “Speaking of whelps, what about you, Aurengrey? You’re the voice of Cyclonis till your father comes back, and yet we haven’t heard a word out of you all day. What is your vote?”
“Two weeks,” Grey said, glad that his voice had finally settled into a deep bass. It leant him an authority far beyond his years, and with this bunch he needed all the help he could get. “My father asked us to wait that long for him. So we wait.”
“For what, boy? No one has survived out in the open that long for years,” Raynard said, throwing his hands up in disgust. “You sit there in that damned ugly armor, doing nothing, and for what? Do you hope to see his ghost?”
Grey stood up. He was tall enough that he could look down on the older man. “If more of us had worn armor like this, they would still be alive.” He inclined his head toward the tunnel that led up to the canyon wall. “You can leave anytime, and take your chances with the wyverns. Cyclonis will wait.”
Grey snatched up his spear, called his hound to heel and left. He could still hear them talking though, the acoustics of the cavern carrying their words along after him.
“Now I know why he’s so quiet,” Brennan said. “He’s so angry that his words choke in his throat.”
“Bah. I’m angry and you don’t see me biting my tongue,” Reynard replied.
Brennan snorted. “Mores the pity.”
That started the argument all over again. Grey had heard enough. Those two had been at it all week, and he was sick of listening to them. His father had a plan, a good one, and all they had to do was wait for him to come back home to set it in motion.
He gathered up the winds that moaned through the caverns and took off, flying and break-neck speed around stalagtites and rockfalls. The hound ran below him, his broad paws finding purchase on even the most broken terrain, easily keeping up with his master.
They wound their way upward, to an entrance that was just below the cavern rim. Grey dropped back down the floor and rested his spear to one side. He inhaled deeply, filling his lungs with clean air. He was tired of dust and grime, musty chambers and still, dead air. Brennan was right, he was angry. This was no way for an Air kindred to live.
A shadow swept over the face of the cliff, and Grey backed up a few steps. There were always wyverns overhead. The damned things were smart, keeping watch in turns in case some bold or foolish person should try to leave the caves. One of his friends had died that way just week before. Grey glared up at them, his hands clenched into fists. Oh yes, he was angry.
He grabbed his spear and moved back out to the entrance. “C’mon. You want me? Come and get me, you stinking cowards!”
The shadow raced against the cliffs again, followed by the high-pitched cry they used to signal the others when they sighted their prey. Grey hefted his spear, looking for a target. More shadows crossed over him and kept going, five, seven, ten, and then he heard the booming of Air castings in the distance. They wyvern’s weren’t after him.
“Father! He’s back!”
He leapt out into space and rocketed upwards, racing to meet the tiny specks that wheeled and fought overhead. One of them faltered and dropped, only to be caught by another. Wyverns circled and dove in, larger silhouettes against the glaring white of the clouds.
“Hang on dad, I’m coming!” Grey said, and put on another burst of speed.
Overhead, more shadows gathered, and the high pitched cries filled the air. Grey could see individual shapes now, five people spiraling and darting amidst a dozen of the huge predators. The entire hunting party had made it back! He did a quick spin, making sure no more wyverns were sneaking up on him. The sky was clear and they creatures had not noticed him coming. A dark smile crossed his face. He had a new trick he had been wanting to try.
Grey flew straight up, so high that his breath came out in frozen plumes. Then he hovered, turning in a slow circle, reading the fast moving wind currents of the upper air. Sounds from the battle below sent his pulse racing, but he couldn’t rush this. It had to be right, or he’d do more harm than good. He began sketching casting marks in the air with the tip of his spear, and flicking them outwards until the air around him hummed with the gathering energy. Frost laden air rushed through the marks, gaining speed, and Grey’s lungs began to ache from the cold. The last mark settled into place, and he reached out with his will to grasp onto the construct.
And the he unleashed Hel.
Roaring winds swirled down and clashed with the warmer air below, the turbulence so great it nearly ripped the wings of the wyverns near the edges of the cold front. Lightning rained down, and the winds howled as they whipped around in a monstrous tornado. Hail followed, and wind shears the snatched up the creatures, snapping bones and dropping them from the sky. And in the midst of it all, in the calm eye of the storm, Grey floated down to gather up his battered kin.
Aurelius flew up to give his son a bear hug, pounding him on the back. “Now that is a proper welcome home!”
Grey was grinning from ear to ear. “It won’t last long. We’ll have to make a dash for the caves. But I can help anyone that needs it.”
Aurelius looked up into the maelstrom. “I think we can manage it. By the heavens, we will manage it,” he said, giving Grey a fierce smile. “We found it. We found their nesting grounds.”
“We’re finally going on the hunt?” Grey said.
“Oh yes. We are going to put an end to this.”
To be continued!…