Quiet

*cannot believe how behind I am… sorry!*

A-Z April Fantasy Flash Fiction, part 17. Character: Jaé

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Quiet

The ocean was quiet this time, as we flew northwards again, and our wings made no sound to disrupt the silence. It was the calm before yet another storm; towering clouds darkened the western horizon, but they were still far. ShaRo flew in front on a straight and unwavering path, impervious to occasional buffeting gusts of wind. I could not resist plunging in and out of the ocean. The gently rippling surface invited me to shatter it. There was no more boundary between sea and sky, I could fly, even breathe equally in both, and though the water pushed my wingbeats more than the air did, it was nothing my strength could not overcome.

“Are you enjoying yourself?” ShaRo asked with an amused grin the next time I flew beside him. I replied with an enthusiastic nod and twirled away again. For some minutes he still held his course and ignored my frolicking, but it must have been infectious because the next time I shot out from under the water’s surface, I caught him in the middle of a wild yet perfect barrel roll. I tried to imitate him but the result was nowhere near as skilled and elegant.

The carefree mood of this flight was soon besmirched as we spotted the enemy shores on the horizon. We were on a new mission, that would take us all the way to Larōbe and the ‘Nōrian royal palace. There was an elaborate operation in place to infiltrate the palace and take the king and his associates hostage. There were already two of our people inside. We were to be the reinforcements, along with another pair who were lying low in the city, and were to follow once we were inside.

The first two had gotten in by letting themselves be captured. It had been a gamble, but a successful one; It was common knowledge that the ‘Nōrian king liked to see prisoners captured directly from ‘Naira, and so they had been brought to the palace. There, one of them escaped and hid himself, while the other, a young girl chosen for her deceptive talents, let herself be brought to the king. According to the latest intelligence, she had succeeded in touching the heart of a certain High Ambassador Perandes, who had insisted on keeping her, and raising her within the palace. She was to signal us further information when we arrived.

As the land loomed below us an we passed Escaton castle without incident, I followed ShaRo, descending towards a rocky area. There we would wait for the cover of darkness, before completing the last part of the way to Larōbe.

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Prayers

A-Z April Fantasy Flash Fiction, part 16. Character: Arancia.

Have you read the previous parts? Please do so :3

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Prayers

For the first time in so long, I said my evening prayers. The last time had been together with my family, gathered around the fireplace, holding hands. Nobody held my hands this time, except for the Good Lord. We were going to battle. The “we” meant Legande, his men, and also me.

The thought alone was enough to make me tremble. I was not ready. I would never be ready for such reckless violence that a fight entailed. My very soul rebelled against the thought; they could not send me, why would they, I will not go, this had to be some mistake!

Yet, it was not. I silently cursed the fireball that had so suddenly shot out from my hand two days ago. I had not been thinking at all, only wishing for a fleeting moment that I could not only give away this formidable strength, but use some of it myself. With a careless gesture I found out that I could not only gift new life, but also death. The fireball had appeared as I snapped my fingers, and it had flung across the castle courtyard, hitting an unfortunate man, who died on the spot.

Legande had witnessed this, and though the loss of the man aggrevated him, it was obvious that he was pleased with this development. Fire, as I later learned, was the vampires’ weakness. Our people had always struggled to bring those monsters, the spearhead of the ‘Nairan fighting force, down. I now presented yet another new hope. Normally, my age and my gender would have both exempted me from fightig, but this was now out of the question.

I watched the men as they prepared themselves for the our last night in the castle, before being shipped off to the front. Most of them seemed calm, perhaps too calm even. As if death’s claws were already around them, but would only suffocate them if they resisted…

This is not our last night, I tried to tell myself, but to no avail. My pulse beat a loud, frantic beat and did not let me sleep. I sprung out of bed, and spent the night pacing on the battlements instead, imagining what I would say to the Good Lord, in the event that I was killed, and I met him in the afterlife.

Obstinate

A-Z April Fantasy Flash Fiction, part 15. Character: ShaRo

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Obstinate

Truth be told, I was worried about Jaé. I still remembered my first days as a vampire. Like most others, I had hurt, or in one case killed, The One Standing Too Close quite a few times. It had taken me a month before my mentor and I had dared to venture into the capital for my inspection.

Perhaps the massacre at Escaton had helped, or perhaps she just had a tamer temperament than I did, but Jaé seemed more stable than I had been as a new one. She was the first one I had changed, so I did not have much to compare with, but she seemed to be doing exceptionally well. We flew over the city of thousands of heartbeats and she never strayed off course.

The only stone fort in Súthenaira was the Command Castle, perched on top of the volcanic rocks of the inner islands. We landed on the battlements, drawing a gaggle of stares from young trainees. Their heartbeats gallopped with excitement as they watched us furl our wings and enter a heavy, important looking door.

The inspecting committee already awaited us, standing at the opposite side of the hall, leaning against the wall. It consisted of my commander, Jaé’s handler, and two others I did not know. Jaé’s handler was the only one with a heartbeat in the room, a wild-eyed nymph, though he did show any sign of fear or discomfort. Our people were a motley mix of immortal monsters, distantly related, and united under a glorious flag. His heartbeat made him no less dangerous than we were. We greeted them with a formal salute, which they all returned. It was time to begin.

“Comerades-in-arms, I, whom they call ShaRoOuNaiGo, present to you the one whom they call JaéAnJoou, deemed ready for inspection after change.” I recited, having hurriedly read the formal procedures before arrival.

“Thank you, ŌuekKaShi.” My commander replied, addressing me as the turquoise flag I wore on my shoulder.

Jaé’s handler watched a little more nervously as my commander produced a sheet of paper. “JaéAnJoou, assigned the white flag, primary weapon: bow…” He read, glancing up at her with strict eyes after every entry, “Aged fifteen now, a Shadow, seven targets confirmed dead…”

“Eight.”

The room instantly filled with incredulous glares as Jaé interrupted her superiors, which was something one definitely did not do at an inspection. “Eight. Escaton’s commander is dead, his throat snapped by my fist. He can confirm.” She gestured at me, while defying the glares, stubborn, obstinate. I felt like my stomach was sinking; I would probably never hear the end of this.

“Well, well.” My commander muttered, turning to me, though it seemed like he was subtly trying to suppress a grin, “Is it true?”

“Yes, sir.” I snapped to attention.

“Eight it is, then, NiikKaShi.” He corrected his paper. “Spread your wings.”

Jaé did as asked, and was fortunately cautious enough to leave the walls and ceiling undamaged.

“Claws.”

Jaé’s claws emerged with the characteristic metallic clang.

“ŌuekKaShi, what’s your opinion?”

“She’s doing well, amd everything seems to be in order. She’s strong, and there’s a lot of fight in her, but she’s also surprisingly adequately controlled.” I ended my assessment with a salute.”

“Thank you.” My commander returned the salute, then gestured to the two unknown vampires in the room. “In that case, we have a new assignment for the two of you.”

Nondescript

*Limping behind schedule, but determined not to give up*

A-Z April Fantasy Flash Fiction, part 14. Character: Perandes

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Nondescript

The Formidable Men of Canaeton saw their first mission mere days after their official date of creation. Intelligence told us of a impeding ‘Nairan raid on one of our southern harbours. This was the enemy’s usual tactic; they were trying to circumvent the front and strike at links in the supply and command chains further behind it. They were to stop the raid and protect the assets.

The skirmish that ensued was an overwhelming victory. I heard the news while eating dinner with Lord Ferreidi, Knight of the Fourth Tower, and the king. The Lord Knight spoke energetically of his beautiful foreigner wife. Although my official title was still High Ambassador, I noticed I was spending a lot of time in direct service of the king, as a sort of advisor, since the war with ‘Naira broke out. As an ambassador, I had learned a lot about our enemy during the rickety peace, and that was what made me valuable now.

A guard burst into the rose-studded, fragrant courtyard with the news of the raid. The raid had been thwarted, and the ‘Nairans had run for the hills after suffering ghastly losses. “Our forces have also caprured two prisoners,” the guard informed us, “and have taken the liberty of bringing them here. They thought His Highness, or perhaps the High Ambassador, would be interested in. Shall I send them in?”

The king was delighted at the thought, and eagerly gestured his approval. The guard disappeared out the door.

After a short wait, he returned, looking severely flustered.

“I have just received word that one of the two prisoners has escaped, right here in the castle!” He spluttered, “We are doing our utmost to find him!”

“I would still very much like to see the other one.” The king proclaimed, and so the guard hurried off, and a moment later shoved in a girl, whose hands were tied behind her back. The paleness, straight, long black hair, loose, simple clothes and bare feet identified her as ‘Nairan, and she was quite nondescript for her kind, except for the fact that she was strikingly young. In any case, we all agreed was definitely too young to have carried the spear that another guard showed us, which they claimed to have confiscated from her. I asked for her name, and when she did not answer, I tried again in her language.

“GooiKe.” She replied with a steely, defiant tone. Prisoner. No matter my kind negotiation, she would not give any other name. She did not want to be anyone else than a prisoner to us.

“How old are you?”

“12.”

On the kings’s prompt, I ask: “Is that old enough for you to be fighting?”

“Everyone who is strong enough to wield a weapon is old enough. That is the law in ‘Naira.”

She was a prisoner, indeed, and always had been. A prisoner to that abhorrent land, and the abomination they called their culture.

Mastery

I swear I’m catching up!

A-Z April Fantasy Flash Fiction, part 13. Character: Jaé

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Mastery

Nothing was like the experience of the exhilirating flight home. We flew through billowing clouds, and low between the ocean waves, the wind whipping up from the mighty wings I could now spread, the waves we plunged through washing away the bloodstains from my hair and ragged clothes. I was free; free not only from my captors and chains, but also from weakness and fragility. I could even defy the pull of gravity.

We landed on a small, uninhabited ‘Nairan island, which was covered by a dense forest, rife with signs of destruction. Sharo told me this island was especially reserved as a training ground for new vampires; I soon found out why that was necessary. I could bring down multiple sturdy trees with a careless wingbeat, or shatter a great boulder into pathetic shards with a single, effortless punch. Sharo eventually had to restrain me. I found it too entertaining to flaunt my newfound strength. I even tried to fight him, but unlike the rest of the world around me, he was not breakable. He was even stronger than me, had milennia of practice, and thus he ruthlessly and efficiently beat me into the ground the moment I took a swing at him. His perfectly aimed and executed strikes brought the familiar throb of pain, and that seemed to clear my mind.

Pinned to the ground, in the midst of a dust cloud, I apologised for my uncontrolled behaviour, but he just grinned and said “We’re all like that, we just get better at hiding it.”

After several incidents, which all ended with me sprawled on the ground but still very much elated, I noticed that he indeed seemed to be enjoying himself just as much as I was. I decided not to resist the urge to fight him again and again too much. Our duels got better and better with time. With every hit I took and every defeat I learned something new; to use my claws, my wings, my fangs, my senses. I still could not beat Sharo, but I felt like I was getting a little closer, and he confirmed it with his increasing frequency of compliments.

We kept going for days and nights. It sounded daunting at first, but s a vampire, I no longer slept. In the end I felt I had more or less gained mastery of my body. The feelings and instincts were another thing, as they were more capricious and compelling than I had ever thought was possible, but I could now resist attacking Sharo if I wanted to. I could even let animals with mouth-watering heartbeats safely pass me by.

Sharo therefore announced I was ready for inspection. We left the island, diving underwater this time, for the sake of variety and practice, towards the capital.

Life

Ugh. Days late! To my defense, the weather is nice outside, and my bow and arrows begged me to shoot. :3 *excuses*

A-Z April Fantasy Flash Fiction, part 12. Character: Arancia.

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Life

New life is beautiful. The wonder, gratitude, and pure joy in the eyes of a newborn child are a miracle to behold. I remembered the birth of my younger brother; the entire family had been so touched that we cried and smiled at the same time, standing around my mother and this precious little gift.

A rebirth feels very much the same, if not even more powerful. To be torn from death’s dark claws, and be guided back to a new, stronger than human body, is the epitome of salvation, the greatest treasure that mankind through the ages always seeks.

It is no wonder then that the slain guards of Escaton castle were all beyond grateful for my touch. At first I had been hesitant; It had been very long ago since I had last done it, and I did not remember the details. As we arrived, my doubts flew away at once. These men had been prematurely robbed of their life by the most vile creatures mankind knew. The determination to undo this grave mistake of fate was all I needed, and so the scene of a tragedy transformed into one of a miracle.

Escaton, the Tower of Rocks, became known as the Tower of New Life, Canaeton. Legande was put in charge of the troops there, whose number grew by the day. Each new man, without exception, had been murdered in cold blood by those southern fiends. Each new man swore to use their newly aquied strength, and their miraculous second chance, to wipe out that scourge that plagued us once more. The immortal people of Súthenaira were the cause of most of the suffering in the known world, wise men had agreed; they spread nothing but war and violence, harboured monsters, and vehemently sabotaged any and all attempts at building a better world. They were no more than filth, a disease of the world that desperately called for healing.

We soon found out that even my miracle touch could not completely undo all the damage they caused; the body had to be intact, and the heart undamaged, and the death no more than a few days past, in order for the resurrection to happen. This was an unfortunate weakness, and it was agreed at once that it was to be kept completely secret, and nobody was to speak of it from now on, to anyone. The ‘Nairans, if they found out, would immediately react by making sure all the victims would be stabbed through the heart, or beheaded.

So life went on in the castle that now became the pinnacle of our people’s hope. We prepared for an offensive that would turn the tide at the front and lush our enemy further into retreat on their own mainland. Eventually, we hoped to take their capital, and remove their king. Of course, none of this directly concerned me. My mission was the miracle touch of Canaeton, the promise of returned life.

Killer

A-Z April Fantasy Flash Fiction, part 11. Character: ShaRo

Please do read the previous parts! This is a continuous story. :3

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Killer

Guards ran at us from all directions. Their heavy boots thudded on the stone courtyard floor with each footstep, their breaths heaved the air this way and that, their pulses gallopped, the blades of their pikes cut through the air with subtle whistles. I waited patiently for them to close the distance, their slow, mortal’s strides stretching far into time. I saw Jaé grow impatient beside me, she could not yet stand her ground. Her drive to fight, the ever-present beast, was new to her, and was trying its wings. She launched into attack, growling like an animal.

“Alarm! Vampires!” Someone screamed, as Jaé reached the first guard. She was on him before he could even swing his weapon, catching his neck and breaking it in one smooth movement. What followed was a glorious massacre. Jaé was a relentless killer, spurred on by the monster’s instincts that were still new to her. She would of course have to learn to control herself later, when we returned home, but now I made no effort to stop her. There was no better weapon than a wild, young vampire.

I watched Jaé leap from one man to the next, and they were slammed into the ground by the throat, one by one. It was always the same brute, simple move; it showed that Jaé was new, and had no experience. She relied only on the physical advantages my bite had given her. The agility to dodge the flurry of pikes, and the strength to end the pathetic mortal lives with a single throw.

She barely left anything for me to do. The few guards that did reach me, died cleaner deaths than Jaé’s victims. I used my claw, a sword-like, natural weapon that could be extended from behind my fingernails. I would show Jaé how to use them later. Against the weak ‘Nōrian humans she was already more than well equipped, and no matter their numbers, we were no match for them. I slashed out at the two last remaining guards that had not yet fled, or been killed, while sidestepping a pike stab. Both of them collapsed to the ground, separated from their heads.

An odd silence descended on the castle. We stood in the middle of a bloodstained mess. Jaé seemed to come to her senses and she looked at me, her eyes golden nowke mine, expectant and curious, though also somewhat confused.

“Come, NiikKaShi.” I addressed her by her designate Flag. “Let’s go home.”

I spread my wings wide, and with three powerful beats I already cleared the battlements and soared above the ocean. I did not need to look behind me to know she followed; her wings whipped up a magnificent windstorm.