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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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.

Jovial

A-Z April Fantasy Flash Fiction, part 10. Character: Perandes

Are you peeps reading the previous parts~? Do so here!

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Jovial

After that spectacle of pitting Legande against the guards, the king waved everyone away from him.

“Not you, High Ambassador!” He called after me as I bowed my head and was about to turn on my heel, “Pray stay a moment longer.”

I could hear Arancia chattering excitedly to Legande, their voices fading into the distance. The three guards limped off, muttering amongs themselves, then gruffly shouted at a subordinate to fetch them new pikes. I obediently stayed, and his highness waited for the noise to die down before he spoke again.

“Well done, High Ambassador. I believe you have discovered the solution to a grave, long-standing problem of our nation.” The king announced in a sombre, stately voice, unbefitting the jovial expression that invaded his otherwise immaculately controlled face. ” As you undoubtedly know, we have always had a significant disadvantage in battle against our southern neighbours, despite our numbers, and perhaps more importantly, our superior technology and sorcery. Those beasts were created to thrive in the barbaric condition of war, it seems, and our soldiers cannot keep up with their physical prowess.”

I nodded approvingly. The king grasped very well, for his young age, what made the war against Súthenaira such a perpetually fruitless venture. Súthenaira was the land of the Faekind and the Beastkind, the immortal races of the known world. There, they allowed all manner humanoid monsters to live, as long as they could fight for the land, like Shifters, Serpents, or even Vampires. There had been reports from Escaton castle that a young Sylph had been captured some weeks ago, who had survived a jump from the highest tower into the icy ocean, and had almost escaped on several occasions. They were all vicious creatures.

“Our enemies are indeed the most vile kind of fiends, and it seems like this Legande man now resembles them.” The king concluded, “It may be an unsavoury thought, but in order to defeat the monsters, we may need some monsters of our own.”

“That is a wise insight, your highness.” I replied with a bow. These had been my very thoughts when seeking out Legande. Though it pained me to see his resemblance to the vicious ‘Nairans, it also gave me hope; perhaps I would not need to see again a massacre such as the one I survived. Perhaps, after milennia of struggle, this evil folk from the south could be defeated once and for all, and our people could finally live in peace.

The king studied my expression once more, before he announced in his most regal tone, “Then it is decided. Have the sorceress girl raise an army of soldiers from the dead, and let this man Legande train them. Soon, with divine aid, we may finally have our long desired victory.”

Instinct

A-Z April Fantasy Flash Fiction, Part 9. Character: Jaé

Dear Readers, this is the 9th installment of a continuous story! Please read the previous parts over here!

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Instinct

Reality was gone, and there was only pain.

This pain was different that the kind inflicted by my torturers during the past weeks. That had been bad too, but predictable, indifferent. The kind of pain I had been trained to expect, to endure.

This was a wildfire, spreading from my neck through my bloodstream, burning, disintegrating everything that I was. It was also strangely liberating. Any moment now, I would be released from my broken and shredded body, spread mighty wings and fly from this dungeon, away from the suffering carried by the wind into the next life. This had to be death, I thought, as I listened to my accelerating heartbeat, and my own screams, which sounded disembodied and distant.

I was wrong. Perhaps not entirely, as I would find out, but I was completely misinterpreting what the last fragment of my sane mind had just imagined.

My heart eventually gave up, and for a moment, darkness and silence enveloped me completely as I closed my eyes, breathed out one last time, and felt like falling into a deep sleep. Contrary to my expectations, this was not the end.

After an undefineable stretch of time, I heard something.

No.

I heard everything.

I was still unmistakably in Escaton castle, in the dungeon, but the dungeon had changed. It seemed to contain so much more of everything than before. There were so many signs of life; heartbeats and breaths, movements and slight twitches of muscles, all individual, distinguishable. I counted seven other prisoners in my immediate vicinity, ten more scattered around some paces away, and the interrogator. Water droplets rolled down the columns, and dripped off the ceiling. One landed on the gory stone floor. The next on a prisoner’s skin, the third on something metal.

A swooshing of the air, a sickening crunch, a bloodcurdling scream of agony, shattering the dank, thick air, an unpleasant contrast to the signs of life and the water drops. The interrogator had hit the man with a solid steel rod, breaking the bones in his leg. After the screaming stopped, the man panted and babbled incoherently while his heart raced. The water continued to drip, the prisoners lived and breathed. Above the ceiling, footsteps moved about, bored guards shifted their weights from one leg to the other and poked the floor with the shafts of their pikes. The ocean’s waves rhythmically crashed against the walls outside. The wind howled through some openings.

A cool touch on my shoulder. That, I was not expecting. It came with no sound, nothing to betray a presence, yet it was very clearly the grasp of a hand. A hand from a cold, silent body. I opened my eyes, and took a sharp breath. The air rushed in, though I did not need it; it brought no nourishment nor relief, only more information. So many smells and movements, yet I did not have the time to sift throught them. All my attention was on the hand on my shoulder, and on whom it belonged to.

His skin was flawless and pale, his eyes a serene well of melting gold, and his somewhat angular, yet graceful face was framed by long, straight, black hair. His expression was curious, expectant, yet friendly, and he looked not much older than me. Very quietly, a faint memory called out from my mind, telling me he had come to rescue me. All this took only a moment to register, before his touch tore into my attention again and compelled me to move. I did not think, or consciously decide. My body almost moved by itself, propelled by an instinct.

I swung to the side, away from his hand, pulling my arms free, breaking the chains, twirling through the air, and lithely landed on my feet, on the ground. It was an effortless movement, where time seemed to wait for me with every detail. As the chain crashed to the ground with a clanging racket, the interrogator startled and wheeled around, reaching for a weapon. I sensed hostility in him, and felt it mirrored in me, a wild urge. I could not have run away, even if I wanted to. The prospect of a fight called out to an overwhelming new strength in me. By the time the interrogator finished his turn and faced me, I was already at his throat, and slammed him into the stone floor with all my force. His panicked heartbeats ceased at once.

I turned towards the silent one again but he was already running off, out the doorway and up the stairs. I lunged into a sprint to follow him, though he did not seem to slow down, as the rest of the world did around me. In a moment we were out in the courtyard of the castle. He had swung a door open, making a deafening noise, and so all the guards were alerted.

Ordinarily, this would have been the part where I made a run for it. Now I felt my muscles tense as I glanced around surveying the approach of each frantic guard. Everything in me longed to fight, to use this strength that was ready to explode from within me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the ‘Nairan boy curl into a loose crouch, his glance locked on the nearest foe as he waited for the distance to close. I was too impatient. Without another conscious thought, I hurled myself forward, and as I did, a fierce, beastly growl erupted from the depth of my lungs.

“Alarm! Vampires!” The lookout cried, as chaos descended on the castle.