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.”

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Eloquent

A-Z April Fantasy Flash Fiction, Part 5. Character: Jaé

Dear Readers, this is the 5th installment of a continuous story! Please read the previous parts here: 1. 2. 3. 4.

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Eloquent

Six more dead Nōrian noblemen later I was forced to fire off my second arrow, as I made my frantic escape through Escaton castle, a monstrous fortification on the cliffs of the southern peninsula of Terenōr. I released it, bitterly scolding myself for my silly blunder. My target this time had been the lord of this castle, a charismatic commander of the sprawling war effort his kingdom had launched against us. I had silently cut down some guards on the way up the tower from where I planned to shoot him, while he crossed the battlements on his regular inspection.

I had completely forgotten about the evening change of guard.

The bodies of the guards were discovered amidst angered shouts, just as I drew my aim on the marked man, crouching at an arrow slit. Startled, I released. I missed. The arrow clattered against the battlement wall an inch from the lord’s head, the noise of my failure echoing between the cold stone walls. The alarm was immediately raised, and a horde of soldiers came trampling up the tower stairs.

That was where I shot my second arrow, into the thick throng of men. In the steep, narrow staircase, the heavyset man who’s eye my arrow pierced, staggered backwards in his last throes, hampering the guards’ advance. I sprinted up the remaining section of the tower and burst out the trap door into the open air. To the north, the castle, now bustling with uproar, was sprawled over the rocks. On the other side was the deep drop of the cliffs and the darkness of the ocean, furious with the wild waves of the nearing storm. I did not hesitate. With three last strides I was at the edge, kicking off the grey castle bricks into the windy depths.

I took a deep breath as I plummeted downwards, the daunting crests of the waves rushing closer and closer, until I broke the surface, and the water rushed past my ears. The current thrust me towards the cliffs, and I lunged upwards for air. There was nowhere to swim to, except the jagged rocks. My only hope was to hide there, and pray they thought me dead.

Unfortunately, I had barely started climbing up a slippery wet rock when the boats arrived, swiftly riding the wind. Despite my best efforts, I was suddenly caught by a rope sling, tugged down into the water, and hauled straight back to the dock. There, none other but my target awaited me, with a contigent of soldiers, all armed to the teeth and at the ready. They pulled me up by the rope and crudely shoved me forward, making clear that they would not go easy on a trespassing attacker. I did not want to let my target go, figuring I had nothing else to lose at this point, but I knew could not break free from the steely grip of the burly men. My captors shoved me this way and that, gruffly yelling at me, or amongst each other., until the lord gestured them to silence.

“My child,” He cooed in a theatrical voice that oozed like rotting honey, ” You need not live your life as you do. You are but a child, and they cruelly send you to commit such horrors. Let us help you! Stop struggling, and we will send for someone to take you in as their own, so you may thrive in your upbringing!”

I guessed that was what they said to all of us, at least to those of us who were stupid enough to get caught.

“How eloquent.” I sneered through my gritted teeth, “I will not succumb to being brainwashed by a diseased, filthy breed such as your own!”

I blacked out as one of the soldiers rammed the shaft of his pike against my head.

I woke up in the hellhole dungeon of Escaton castle, amidst tortured groans and screams of the other prisoners, hanging by a chain from the dripping ceiling.

Assassination

A-Z April Fantasy Flash Fiction, Part 1. Character: Jaé

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Assassination

They call me JaéAnJoou, the Arrow’s Shadow. I earned that name after the successful completion of my first mission. I had been tasked with the assassination of of a ‘Nōrian nobleman, who was held responsible for providing abundant resources for the enemy’s vast army. Later, they would also hail me ÚKaRi The First Spark, the trigger of war, but this I still knew nothing of.

I infiltrated the lavish courtyard of his palace on the day of a pompous celebration, smuggling my shortbow and arrows under the disguise of a ragged servant’s cloak. Despite my KanCHo, my commander, telling me to take just a single arrow, to discourage missed shots, the beginner’s nerves got the better of me. I took two.

Worried that my cover would be blown, I rehearsed my story a thousand times over on the sunlit morning of the day, as I walked through the forest, carrying a sack of fruits. I was to say that I was born into servitude, to captured ‘Nairan fighters. There was no way my pale white face and light blonde hair could blend in with the crowd. The people of this land all had skin of dark, earthy tones, and I knew I would attract attention like a venomous snake.

I was correct. The guard had already been notified by the time I reached the gate. He gruffly grabbed my shoulder and jerked me to the side. I feigned pain and fear as he looked me over.

“A slave girl?” He scoffed as he saw my tattered, dirty cloak, apparently a well-done disguise. “How old are you?”

“Sixteen.” I quickly and humbly replied in my best ‘Nōrian. It was a lie; I was only fourteen, and that made me an unaccompanied child, something forbidden by their strange laws.

“I bring a gift to the with the compliments of my master.” I said in the same humble voice, and held up the sack. The guard looked inside it,  and, convinced by the disguise and losing interest in me, waved me in. I dumped the sack near the kitchen entrance and made sure to disappear from view in the intricate web of corridors, balkonies and guest rooms, making my way to the top floor windows.

My target walked out into the courtyard soon after I had braced my bow, and nothing obstructed my view. I nocked the arrow, took a deep breath, drew out, took aim. The nobleman, oblivious, raised his hands to address his guests.

I released.

The arrow soared over the courtyard and cast an eerie shadow down below with the blazing midday sun. As the shadow passed each startled guest, they gasped, pointed, screamed, but this all happened in the fraction of a short moment. By the time they truly came to their senses, my arrow was embedded squarely between the eyes of my target. He lay dead, and I was making my speedy getaway, sprinting over the rooftops, the soaring away into the sky on the back of a stolen dragon.

My duty was done.

Returning to my KanCho, I was not given much time to rest. The next day I received a new name, a new target, and was off again, with nothing but my bow, an arrow, and the second arrow, which I hoped never to need.