The Wanderer’s Tale – Part 8 October 29, 2012Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: #fridayflash, flash fiction, Nox and Grimm, serial fiction, serials
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Grey awoke, as he so often did with Cavall’s wet nose snuffling at his hand. He ruffled the wolf-hound’s ears and yawned, but didn’t open his eyes. It felt too good to stretch out and rest his weary bones on a soft bed. The sleeping furs felt strange though, more like fabric…
He sat bolt upright and tore off the thick blankets swathed around him. “Where in Hel’s name are we?”
Cavall let out a happy whuff and jumped onto the bed, taking over the warm spot Grey had just vacated. Seeing the hound so relaxed was enough to relieve some of Grey’s worry, if not his confusion. The last thing he remembered was the sharp jolt of a sudden downdraft that tossed them into the trees. He felt gingerly along his side and back, but there was no sign of cracked ribs or bruising. He should have been a mess, ribs took weeks to heal.
That thought drove him to his feet. He’d had less than two weeks to find more medicine for his people. He stumbled around the bed, guided by the dim light slipping between the slats of tall wooden shutters. He threw them open, only to realize they were not windows but a doorway leading out onto a broad stone balcony. The sun was rising beyond unfamiliar mountain peaks that towered over a broad plateau, which was covered with buildings and lamp-lit streets. He had only been to one of the port cities as a small boy, but he knew that none of them had mountains nearby. There was no sign of the ocean either, which meant there was no way to find the sea traders, and get back in time.
“I failed,” Grey whispered, and sank back down on the edge of the bed. “They were depending on me, and I failed.”
A polite knock came from somewhere behind him, but Grey was still too deep in shock to answer. The sound was followed by the creak of a door opening and brisk footsteps . “Ah, I see that you are awake! That is very good! You have a remarkably strong constitution, my young friend.”
Grey turned slightly, and found himself looked up at a tall, thin man. He had long black hair that hung straight back from his forehead down to his waist, and he wore strange, flowing robes woven to resemble the blue/grey feather pattern of an osprey. At any other time Grey would have been fascinated by meeting someone so unusual, but right then the only words he could manage to choke out were, “What day is it?”
The man gave him a kindly smile that crinkled the corners of his eyes. “It is the morning after you landed, the twenty third day of the Flower moon. And let me say, that was quite a feat. Not everyone can ride a typhoon and live to tell the tale.”
Grey shook his head, bewildered. “Flower moon? It’s autumn, not spring…”
The man pulled over a chair and sat down. “Hmm, perhaps we should start from the beginning? My name is Galen, of House Zephyr, and you landed rather precipitously on the outskirts of my city. I am guessing you are from somewhere much farther south?”
“Yes, from the western rim of the plains,” Grey said. “Oh, my name is Aurengrey, of Tribe Cyclonis. But everyone calls me Grey.”
Galen leaned back and frowned. “There are no plains south of here. Unless, hmm…oh dear. You don’t mean the south-west continent, do you? I had heard of some nomadic groups there. That would explain your accent.”
“I crossed the whole ocean?” Grey said, his mind whirling as he tried to calculate the date. He jumped up and cast about the room, looking for his belongings and the precious store of coins he had brought. “It’s only been 6 days since I left then. There’s still time, if I can find a way home. Please sir, do you have any maps, or news of where the trade ships are?”
“I could find out, but why don’t you tell me what sent you out in such dangerous weather?” Galen said. “Perhaps I can help?”
Grey found his map case lying on a side table, miraculously still intact and with all the coins bundled inside. “Unless you can acquire enough fellsbane and quicknettle to cure a hundred people or more, I’m afraid not. The traders have been stocking it, knowing we need it.”
Galen stood up and placed a hand on Grey’s arm. “Put your money away, young man. I have no need of it, or such simple remedies. What you want is a true healer and fortunately for you, I am the most skilled practitioner in the North.” He smiled at the guarded look on Grey’s face. “I see you don’t believe me. But tell me then, how else were your broken ribs mended in a single night?”
Grey hesitated, not sure what to believe. He had never heard of anyone being able to heal like that, outside of stories, but the man had no reason to lie to him. He was obviously an Air kindred as well; which didn’t necessarily mean he had their best interests in mind, but they had nothing left worth taking. What finally decided him was Cavall. The wolf-hound had followed them across the room and was sitting next to Galen, with his tail thumping on the ground. Grey had learned to heed the hound’s instincts above his own. “I guess if Cavall trusts you, I should as well.”
Galen gave Cavall a pat on the head, and laughed as he got a sloppy lick for his troubles. “It’s settled then. You can tell me your whole story over breakfast, and we will set out soon after.”
Later, Galen left his young guest to rest while he made his preparations. The calm, cheerful demeanor he had displayed earlier had given way to a deep, worried frown, however. As he entered his suite he motioned to one of his servants to follow him in. “I want you to gather every healer worth the name, and have them ready to travel within the hour. Send word along the portal networks, I want them to stand at the ready to bring back refugees. We’ll need bedding and food prepared for at least 150 people, possibly more.”
“Yes milord,” the man said, with a quick bow as he hurried out.
Galen’s wife waited until they were alone, and shut the door. “You found out who the boy is? He’s not one of Kalnaeth’s brood?”
“No, though I think I know why we have heard nothing from our cousins,” Galen said, his voice pained. “It is as I feared; their madness led them to breed creatures they could not control. Wyverns, altered for war and genocide. They must have flown down that spit of land to the south-western continent once they had finished with our kin the north.” He clenched his fists so tightly that his knuckles turned white. “That poor boy is only sixteen, and he has been fighting those beasts for years already. Do you remember the puckered scars on his arm?” Galen said, jabbing a finger at his forearm. “He has been slowly poisoning himself, administering a tiny dose of wyvern venom every day in an attempt to build up a tolerance. And not to survive a sting. Oh no. That is only so that he can live long enough to get away, so that he won’t be paralyzed and have to watch as they eat him alive.”
Elena held his hands in her own, and forced him to look at her. “Beloved, this is not your fault.”
“Isn’t it?” Galen said. “Perhaps if I had stayed, if there was one voice of reason left– “
“-then we would have shared their fate,” Elena finished for him. “You can’t save everyone.”
Galen sighed, and leaned his forehead against hers. “No, but I have to try. Or I won’t be able to live with myself.”
“And that is why I love you,” Elena said, kissing his cheek. “Be careful. You do not know for sure that the beasts do not have masters still.”
Galen let her hands go, his face set in determination. “If they do, then I intend to have a few words with them.”
Nanowrimo – the annual madness returns! October 29, 2012Posted by techtigger in NaNoWriMo, writing.
It’s that time again, when writers everywhere start stocking up on enough caffeine and chocolate to survive a month-long writing binge…NaNoWriMo… (cue ominous music…)
I haven’t done this seriously in years, I’ve just been too darned busy. But this year I actually have a project to get done and NaNo will be the perfect way to motivate me to get things going. When asked by Maria Kelly, “How do you plan for NaNo?” My answer was, “I don’t!” 🙂 But she said, write a blog post about that anyway!, so here it is!
I know there are a lot of plotters out there. They outline, they color code their sticky notes, they plan to the n’th degree. Sadly, I am not that organized. You see, I am a visual person. I need to ‘see’ the scene in my head, and when I see it clearly, I know I’ve got it nailed. Since I can’t tack sticky notes to my brain, (okay, i could but you have to admit it’s not a good idea) and I’ve never stuck to any outline i’ve ever written, I am trying to think of a way to plan ahead without actually writing outlines or getting anywhere near a chart or binder. So then it hit me – why not story board it?
I do this all the time for video shoots at work. I make little sketches with notes on camera angle, set dressing, etc. I can even toss in a line or two of text if i think of something particularly amusing. (… Virgil thumped the metal side of the black hawk helicopter and yelled over the noise of the rotors, “You wanna know what’s wrong? I’m going to Hell in a mil-spec handbasket!”…)
I have no idea if this will work, but I’m willing to try anything once. And that’s what NaNoWriMo is all about, just tossing things out there and seeing what you can do. I’ll let you know how it turns out 🙂
Good luck to all of you who are joining in the madness!
Bloodlines – Part 3 October 23, 2012Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: flash fiction, paranormal, serial fiction, serials, virgil
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Dinner was an awkward affair. Between Virgil’s presence as an outsider to the family and the corpse laid out in the parlor for the wake, the conversation was stilted and centered mostly on the weather. Silverware clinked on china, and the fragile old wooden chairs creaked as their occupants leaned to pass a serving platter. The formless rage that Virgil sensed around them had abated somewhat, but he still kept seeing dark silhouettes hovering out of the corner of his eye. The experts back at HQ officially classified shadow people as harmless, but that didn’t keep him from looking over his shoulder every so often to make sure there weren’t any behind him.
Cousin Alex, who had been giving Virgil jaundiced looks the entire time must have decided that the arrival of dessert was his cue to start prying. “So, you’re from California?” he asked, making the question sound like an indictment.
Virgil kept his reply cautiously bland. “Yes, I’ve lived there for most of my life.”
“Are you a liberal?” Alex said, all but spitting out the word.
“I prefer to live and let live, if that’s what you mean,” Virgil said, dividing his attention between his verbal sparring partner and the room around them. The shadows were starting to crowd in.
Alex sneered at him. “You got a girlfriend? Or a boyfriend?”
Linda slammed her hand on the table. “Alex, that is enough! He’s our guest.”
“A man has a right to know what kind of person is staying under his roof,” he said, and glowered at his sister.
Linda gave him a scathing look. “It is not your house, Alex. And we won’t know who inherits until the will is read, so quit acting like you own the place already.”
Virgil’s empathic sense was buzzing like hornets. It was no wonder the spirits were unsettled, what with all the negative energy in the house. This was the reason Lares had brought him here. There was no way he could calm the ghosts directly, but he could use his Talents to clear away the ugly emotions that were feeding them. Enter the leading man, stage left, to take the spotlight…
Virgil stood and held up his hands as if surrendering to a gunman. “We might as well tell them about us, Sophie,” he said to Lares, remembering again at the last second not to use her codename.
She froze with a fork halfway to her mouth, her eyes wide as saucers.
Virgil smiled and paused a little longer, until everyone else leaned forward in anticipation. “We work for the Defense Department,” he said, which wasn’t entirely a lie. He smiled at their chagrined laughter and sat back down. “We can’t tell you much about our work; it’s classified. We were en route to our next assignment when Sophie got the call about her aunt. This wasn’t too far out of the way, so here we are. Any more questions?” He was careful to keep his tone clipped and short, imitating some of the Marines he had worked with recently.
Alex still looked suspicious, but some of the belligerence had gone out of him. “Why didn’t you drop her off and keep going?”
“You know the government; they’ll waste four thousand dollars on a high tech toilet seat, but they won’t spring for a hundred bucks to rent a second car. Go fig,” Virgil said, with an amused shrug.
Alex grunted, which Virgil took as a sign that he was off the hook, for the moment.
Unfortunately, Desiree took that as an opening to start needling Lares again. “That explains why you stopped coming to visit. I’m sure your top secret work keeps you busy,” she said, her voice dripping sweet acid. “Honora never did understand though, and after all she did for you when your mother passed on. She always felt your leaving was a betrayal. It’s a shame now that you’ll never get to patch it up with her.”
Virgil felt the knot of anguish build in Lares, and he reached out with his Telepathic sense to still Desiree’s venomous tongue. The second he projected his will however, every piece of china on the table floated up two feet in the air, and smashed back down. Desiree screamed and jumped up from her seat, knocking the chair over as she hurried to get away from the table.
“You stop that, Sophie! You stop it right now!” she yelled, pointing an accusing finger at Lares. “Don’t try to blame it on the ghosts. I know what that feels like!”
“I didn’t do anything Desi. Not this time, nor any other that you’ve accused me of,” Lares said, her voice shaking with anger.
Alex’s boys started chanting, “Fight! Fight! Fight!”
Linda pushed her chair back, her face livid. “There will be no fighting in this house! Alex, it’s late, and time you got those boys to bed. Desi, go get your father’s room ready.”
Desi’s eyes narrowed. “Just because you cleaned up after a decrepit old woman all these years doesn’t make you the boss around here,” she said.
The last few glasses still standing on the table started to rattle.
Lares’ cool, calm voice cut through the tension. “Do you still think it’s me doing this, Desi?”
Desi went pale and started to tremble. “It’s not me. It can’t be me!” She turned and fled from the room, and the seething rage that filled the room followed her out.
Linda was gripping the edge of the table so hard her knuckles were white. “I am very sorry you had to see that Virgil. Desi has…a lot of control problems. I’m going to go clean up in the kitchen,” she said, and retreated without looking at either of them. Alex shooed the boys out with a few well-placed cuffs to their heads.
Virgil let out a low whistle. “Are you sure you’re related to these people?”
“I’m beginning to wonder about that,” Lares said. She opened a small cabinet built into the wall and pulled out a dustpan and brush to clean up the broken china.
Virgil took them from her. “Here, let me get that. I can’t do much else right now. Your family ghosts seem to object to my efforts to calm things down.”
Lares’ brows knit together in a deep frown. “They’ve never reacted to psychic Talents before. Almost everyone in the family has a touch of them.”
“Yes, but your Auntie Honora was here then to keep the spirits in line,” Virgil said. “I somehow doubt anyone has had a talk with them since she passed on.”
“You may be right,” Lares mused, pulling out a small wastebasket. Down the hall, a clock chimed and she let out a sigh. “It’s almost time for me to sit with Honora anyway. I’ll see what I can do to calm them down.”
“Go on ahead, I’ll finish up here,” Virgil said, and watched the doorway to the hall for a long time after she had gone. As far as he could tell, she was the only person actually mourning Honora’s loss. Alex and Linda were too concerned with getting their hands on the house to care about losing their own mother, and Desi was out to get whatever she thought she could get away with. He wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of the more valuable items in the house somehow ended up in her suitcase. Alex’s boys weren’t any better – they would probably burn the house down just for the fun of it.
Greed, violent tendencies, untrained Talents… as Virgil finished clearing up the table, he realized that he had never asked how Honora had died. He had a nasty feeling that it might not have been from natural causes…
The Wanderer’s Tale – Part 7 October 19, 2012Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: #fridayflash, flash fiction, Nox and Grimm, serial fiction
The land that flowed beneath Grey as he flew eastward was nearly empty of life. The great herds that once covered the plains had dwindled down to small, furtive groups that bolted in terror as his shadow passed over them. The sky was bereft of birds and the trees, when he came down for the night held only silence in their branches.
It was well that he had thought to bring his hound along on the journey – twice on the first night, Cavall held off thin, desperate coyotes long enough for Grey to send them running with blasts of Wind. He didn’t kill the beasts, however. It wasn’t their fault that the wyverns had taken the top rung on the food chain, and left nothing behind. “Those coyotes are not much different from us,” Grey said. “The tattered remnants of our kind, too stubborn to give up and move on.”
Cavall flicked an ear in his direction but didn’t take his eyes off the darkness around them.
Grey sat with his back to a rock and drew patterns in the dirt with the tip of his knife. “I’m not expecting to find much on the coast either. Not after seeing all this. Why would traders sail into a port if there is no-one left to trade with?” He looked up at the stars overhead, finding the pole star. “We’ll go north, and start the search there. There’s a storm coming, we can catch the leading edge and slingshot around it to cover more ground.”
Cavall let out a yawn and rested his head on his paws.
Grey chuckled. “You’re a top notch guard dog, Cavall, but a terrible conversationalist.” He leaned forward and finished drawing the casting marks, and slapped the ground with the palm of his hand. The sound sent up puffs of dust that swirled away in miniature funnel clouds, making a barrier to discourage any other starving predators. “There, that should let us get some sleep.”
The morning dawned dreary and still. Grey tested the air, reaching out to find the edges of the storm. It was a large one, bigger than any he’d seen in his sixteen years but was confident of taming it. “Well, it’s going to be a wet ride. Sorry about that, but if we don’t find a fresh supply of medicine soon there won’t be anyone left to go home to. Here, lie down.”
The hound complied, and Grey arranged Cavall’s legs to avoid them getting broken by a wind shear. Then he wove layer upon layer of air around them in a protective shield, and crouched down next to the hound to protect him as best he could from the elements. Young and confident he may have been, but he was not foolish enough to fly without taking precautions. Once he was sure that they were as safe as he could make them, he shouted out a word to summon the winds. They shot up through the low, heavy clouds and were swallowed up by the storm…
The remnants of the hurricane swept across the high mountain plateau, pounding into the walls of a half-finished city that sprawled out below Galen’s castle. The Lord of House Zephyr stood on the balcony outside his bedchamber, his long black hair and heavy robes flapping and tugging in the strident winds. Galen had chosen this place to build his city because of the constant, ever changing winds that blew up through the mountain passes. But even he, who knew the moods of the weather so well, was puzzled by the news the storm winds brought him.
“How curious. After more than a hundred and fifty years, the elements still find ways to surprise me. There is something, or someone bending the storm around them in a way I’ve never seen.”
His wife, wisely staying out of the damp chill, was curled up on a divan reading a book. “You are going out into that storm, aren’t you?” Elena said, with an amused sigh.
He came back inside, the rain streaming away from him as he absentmindedly sketched an Air casting to wring the water out of his robes. “A new way to shape the Wind. Fabulous! I must find the source!”
Elena uncurled from her seat and crossed the floor to stand in front of him. “Put on some warmer clothes and take an escort with you, beloved,” she said, and kissed him affectionately on the tip of his nose.
“Of course, and nets and poles, in case we should need to carry whatever it is back…” Galen said. He tossed his robes aside in favor of sturdy trousers and a shirt, with a warm jacket over top. By the time he was done his wife was standing by the door to their suite with a group of guards already prepared to go. A delighted smile lit up Galen’s face, and he kissed her tenderly. “What would I do without you?”
“You would forget your shoes,” Elena said, and her merry laughter filled the room as he ran back inside to stomp into boots.
Galen hurried through the castle, his guards staying close on his heels. A flick of his hand created another effortless Air casting to keep them all dry. They flew out into the night, heedless of the tempest raging around them. Galen reached out with his senses, searching for the faint signs of the foreign casting.
He found it deep in the woods beyond the city. The trees creaked and groaned around him, their limbs swaying beneath the pounding waves of rain. He peered into the gloom near their roots. “There it is, a globe of layered air. Interesting choice.” He walked around it, studying it intently. “Something is moving inside, but I can’t see what it is. Ah well, only one way to find out.”
“Sir, wait!” cried one of the guards, but he was too late. The globe fell apart as Galen touched it and a large, hairy beast howled as it leapt out at him.
Galen raised his hand and the creature stopped in mid-leap, caught by a tendril of Air. “Well, what are you? A wolf? No, wolves don’t wear collars. Some sort of dog, I’d guess. I don’t suppose you made that Air casting?”
The guards had moved up to surround him, swords at the ready. One of them advanced cautiously on the hollow where the dog had been. “My Lord, there is something else here.”
Galen carefully set down the whining, struggling wolf-hound and built a barrier of solidified air around it. “Easy, fellow. I won’t hurt you.” He pushed past his guards and took the lamp, holding it high. “Ah, and here is your master.”
He knelt down, carefully clearing away the broken tree branches that were tangled up with the person lying beneath them. “Good heavens, he’s just a boy. Barely old enough to shave!”
His guard captain looked skeptical. “If he’s a boy, they grow them big wherever he comes from. And that’s a sword at his hip.”
“And broken spears beneath him, yes, but a boy nonetheless,” Galen said impatiently. He put a hand on the young man’s forehead, using his healing talent to read his vital signs. “Old wounds on top of the ones caused by the storm, exhaustion, malnutrition, and some sort of toxin in his blood…what a hard life you have had,” he said, compassion and pity in his voice. “Bring him, and his loyal friend there. Gently now. It would be a shame for him to have survived so much, only to perish due to our carelessness…”
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…”