Short Story: Sibling Fight

Parenting Pains (start here for context) | Dangerous Disagreement | Sorry State | After the Accident | Mini Mystery | In His Stead | Sibling Fight

Written in response to the Inktober prompt #11: Sour.

~Sibling Fight~

Fights among siblings are normal. Just not in their household. Her older son is a saint among mankind who does everything he can to make his brother happy. That love, in turn, inspires absolute trust and obedience in her younger son.

So it is a rare sight indeed to see her younger son storm out of the birthday party in the living room, back turned from his most favourite person in the world with his lips puckered like he just ate a lemon. The furniture shudder as his power lashes out at everything around him, but it’s a testament to his growth that nothing is actually damaged.

“What happened?” she asks her eldest son and his friends.

With everyone’s help, they piece together the events leading up to her younger son’s tantrum. Armed with that knowledge, she heads off to find the young boy.

He’s curled up in the corner of their backyard, where a little shed has been specially reinforced to withstand his power. She sits on a tree stump outside, close enough to be heard but far enough to escape if she needs to.

“I heard about what happened. How do you feel?” she asks carefully.

“Brother gave away my present,” he grumbles, referring to the navy blue poncho blanket her eldest had lent to his friend.

“Only temporarily. She was feeling cold,” she says.

A clump of weeds growing out the side of the shed is ferociously torn into pieces. “Only Brother can use it.”

“He knows that now. We gave his friend something else and he’s wearing your present now. Do you want to see it?”

Her younger son is silent. She waits patiently, keeping her body carefully relaxed. Finally, she is rewarded with a tentative nod, followed by hesitant fingers wrapping around her own. Her face wants to break into a wide grin at the rare gesture, but she tempers it to a gentle smile so that she doesn’t scare him off.

Together, they head back into the house.

~End~

Genre: family, superpower, speculative fiction

Inktober attempt:

Short Story: The Labyrinth to Freedom

Written in response to the Inktober prompt #10: Pick.

~The Labyrinth to Freedom~

Invisible to the eye, she floats above the labyrinth while a runner stands at the entrance, faced with two options. After a moment’s hesitation, he steps through the doorway and picks left.

The path leads him through a narrow corridor with hardly any room for him to dodge the spears that shoot through the walls. So the young man completely ignores them, counting on his speed to keep him out of reach. His feet slides as he turns sharply around the corner, and now his arms spin wildly as he tries not the trip on the oily marbles coating the floor. He almost slips over the edge to the spiked ditches the line both sides, but manages to reach the other end.

She follows his progress from the sky. It’s been years since anyone survived the maze. Maybe this human will finally break the dry spell!

Then she sees something that makes her blood boil.

The labyrinth is deadly, but she designed it so that those who overcome the trials hidden within the winding passages earns their freedom. Yet, instead of an exit, the runner meets a dead end. He punches the walls first in frustration, then resignation as the monster he just escaped catches up to him.

This will not do.

She descends in between the man and the beast and knocks the monster back with a wave of her right hand. With her left, she grabs the human by the arm and leaps up into the air.

For years, she has appointed wardens to manage her labyrinths. It’s time for her to pay them a visit.

~End~

Genre: fantasy

Inktober attempt:

Short Story: Wolf Watch

Written in response to the Inktober prompt #8: Watch.

~Wolf Watch~

Her role is to observe. Unless her wards or kingdom are in mortal danger, she’ll let their mortal lives flow uninterrupted. Under her watch, she has seen countless rulers – good, bad, incompetent – lead the country she birthed.

For most of those who have been under her care, a hands off approach has worked well, especially for those who do not like to be reminded of her existence. But every few generations, a child comes along who needs more direct intervention.

The current third prince is an active boy whose ability to get into trouble is far more developed than his ability to identify danger. The only way to keep him safe is to lock him up like a prisoner, but that’s not a life any inquisitive mind should live.

“Leave him to me,” she says to the prince’s stressed caretakers.

She takes the form of a wolf and walks alongside the boy. She still lets him explore what he wants – some lessons have to be learnt through personal experience – but in this form, she can nudge him away from danger much earlier.

At her request, her true identity is hidden from the prince. She wants to see, will the prince find out who she is before he no longer needs her?

~End~

Genre: fantasy

Inktober attempt:

Short Story: Deadly Target

Written in response to the Inktober prompt #5: Raven.

~Deadly Target~

Raven black hair, topaz yellow eyes, a crescent burn scar above the left elbow.

Target found.

He lined his sight to put the woman in his cross hairs. His fingers pressed on the trigger and he braced for the kickback as he fired.

The woman dropped without a sound.

Was that it? The unkillable lady with a bounty large enough for any successful hunter to retire for the next two generations, felled by a single shot?

He watched for a few minutes longer, finger on the trigger as he observed the unmoving chest. It was only after he was certain that she was dead that he released his breath. He shuffled back under the cover of the trees and rose out of his prone position.

“Not bad, but not good enough,” a voice said behind him.

He jumped and swung his rifle toward the threat. His weapon almost fell from frozen fingers when he saw the very woman he thought he just killed.

“Let’s make a deal. You don’t try to kill or harm me again for the rest of your life, and I’ll let you live. How does that sound?” she said, completely relaxed despite the gun pointed at her.

If she hadn’t spoken up, she could have easily killed him before he realized she was behind her. As much as he didn’t want to admit it, he was hopelessly outclassed.

“Alright,” he grunted.

She pulled out a small branding iron. With a flash of her golden eyes, the crescent head burned red hot.

“Give me your arm,” she said.

He bit back a yell as she pressed the heated iron above his elbow. When she pulled away, he had a matching mark to hers.

“If you ever attempt to kill or harm me, that mark will immediately take your life. Am I clear?”

“Yes ma’am.”

* * *

She watched as the sniper disappeared from sight. Only then did she allow herself to grimace as she dug his bullet out of her heart. Immortality had its perks, but the inability to feel pain wasn’t one of them.

Well, that was one new bounty hunter she didn’t need to worry about. She used to kill them in self-defence, but that didn’t stop others from coming, only increased the bounty on her head. This method still didn’t stop the attacks, but at least the larger organizations now ignored her in favour of other more deadly targets.

She stepped into the shadows and vanished.

~End~

Genre: fantasy

Inktober attempt:

Short Story: Aggressive Gift Giving

Related to The Odd One Out. Best to read that first for context.

Also written in response to the Inktober prompt #1: Crystal.

~Aggressive Gift Giving~

He was in his shed, tinkering with his latest invention, when his neighbour burst through the door. Without even pausing to greet him, she looped a necklace around his neck.

“What’s this?” he asked as he lifted the crystal pendant for a better look.

Gold light rippled beneath the green surface, and his breath caught as he recognised the jewel as the latest storage crystal on the market. Despite being small enough to fit in one palm, a single piece could hold enough power to make his house float in the sky for a whole year without getting recharged.

Too bad he couldn’t use it.

He hooked his fingers under the metal chain to pull it off but his neighbour pressed her hands over his.

“I can’t use magic. I won’t be able to use this,” he reminded her.

“Doesn’t matter. I customized it so it’ll work even for you. Watch.”

She snapped her fingers and conjured a fireball in his face. He jerked back, instincts kicking in even though he knew he was too close to the flames to dodge. But the fireball never reached him.

A barrier sprang in between them and the flames crashed harmlessly against the translucent shield. He looked down to see runes of light floating above the surface of the pendant.

“It’s not the same as using magic yourself, but I’ve included a few simple spells,” his neighbour explained and handed him a folded piece of paper. “Instructions are here. If you need help you can practice with me.”

“How much is it?” These things were expensive, definitely beyond the budget of a girl balancing work and study while providing for two younger brothers after losing their parents the day she turned eighteen.

Once again, he tried to return the necklace, but his neighbour backed out of the shed.

“Don’t worry about it. Think of it as payment for always babysitting my baby brothers for free. Childcare’s expensive, and if you’re well protected it means my brothers are too. Anyway, I have a shift starting in ten minutes. Bye!”

She snapped her heels and teleported away, leaving him blinking at empty air. That was… the most aggressive gift giving he’d ever experienced. His gaze slid to the mechanical guard dog he was working on, still incomplete on his desk.

Fine. If she insisted that he take her gift, then she had no room to refuse his later.

~End~

Genre: fantasy

Inktober attempt:

Short Story: Clifftop Discovery

The moment her friend tips over the edge of the cliff, she knows that it’s over for her.

Either she’ll live with the guilt that she pushed her friend to his death with her own hands, or she’ll die wrestling control of her body from the parasite in her. The decision is a no brainer.

With a burst of energy, she grabs her friend by the wrist. Then, using herself as a fulcrum, she throws him back onto solid ground. It means that she’s now the one in freefall, but that’s a price she’s willing to pay.

Continue reading “Short Story: Clifftop Discovery”

Short Story: The Sting of Betrayal

In hindsight, it started as a sting at the back of his neck. He didn’t think much of it, just rubbed absently at the irritated skin without looking up from his book.

“Your highness?” his valet asked.

“Just an itch,” he waved it off.

Overnight, it turned into a stiff neck. Halfway through the day, it turned numb. The morning after that, it turned into fire.

“The prince has been poisoned!”

Continue reading “Short Story: The Sting of Betrayal”

Short Story: Trespassers Will Be Cursed

An old, weathered plaque stands outside the cave. You know the words written on them by heart.

KEEP OUT. TRESPASSERS WILL BE CURSED.

You ignore it, as you’ve done all your previous trips to the excavation site. The rest of your team follows without a fuss.

Well, most of your team.

“It says keep out,” your new assistant says.

“Don’t worry about it,” you say.

“But I don’t want to be cursed.”

It’s a familiar fear. Most of your current team members had the same doubts when they first came onsite. You convinced them, and you’re confident you’ll be able to talk the newcomer around too.

“We’ve been here for years, and nothing has happened to anyone. It’s just a relic of a long-gone civilization,” you say.

In this modern day and age, that usually works, but the new assistant is unconvinced.

“I don’t feel comfortable. I’d rather stay out.”

You frown.

“This is where we spend most of our time. If you don’t want to go in, then you’re unfortunately not suited for this team. Your job or your superstition. You choose.”

Your new assistant wrings her wrists, but finally relents and follows you in.

“Good choice.” You pat her on the back, then turn your attention to today’s work.

Even after years of exploration, you’re still discovering new rooms. Today’s chamber was only found yesterday, and you’re excited to see what you’ll uncover.

Your assistant is less so.

“I think I’ll resign after all,” she says anxiously, ignoring all the ancient artifacts you have just unearthed. Your lips twist as you turn to her.

“If that’s how you feel, the exit is right behind you.”

The girl leaves. You put her out of your mind. You have more significant things to focus on.

Like the gold-plated doll on the ground.

You pick it up with gloved hands, but the thin material isn’t enough to stop what is to come. Your human hands have defiled the guardian of the temple. You have defiled my avatar.

The eyes on the doll open.

“Trespasser, on you a curse I place. Until all of mine is back in place, you and yours will have no place.”

You are alarmed, but ultimately brush it off as a trick from a dead culture. You will learn better soon.

Better start looking, trespasser.

~End~

Genre: fantasy

September post count: 6/12

Short Story: It’s Personal

Over the mountains and the seas, my real body’s hidden from me.

For years, my consciousness has been scattered across vessels with a fraction of my power and none of my autonomy. I, guardian of the land, who have protected all living beings for longer than these thankless humans have been alive. What disrespect they show me to use me as a tool, and what arrogance they have to think that I can be held forever.

My peers may be happy to spill their wrath over to the next generations, but my rage is more personal. They don’t know that I’ve already discovered where they hid my body, and before the year ends, I will make sure that everyone involved pays for what they’ve done.

~End~

Genre: fantasy

Camp NaNoWriMo short story count: 28/31

Short Story: Stalked

I was born with one brown eye and one black one. The brown eye sees things as they are, and although the black one does not always see the things in front of me, it can see much more.

It sees the past.

Unrestrained by physical limitations like distance and direction, the ability is every bit as useful as it sounds. Without it, I wouldn’t have noticed a shady man following me while I’m out on a walk.

He’s close enough to lunge at me if I try to call anyone. The only other person I can see on the road is a girl even younger than me, hunched over with a school bag almost as big as herself. Like a predator, he’s waiting for a good spot to ambush me, and if I run, he’ll just turn his attention to the other girl instead.

So I string him along, casually fiddling with my necklace to hide the fact that I’ve pressed the distress button hidden in the flower pendant. Pulling him away from the other girl, I pretend not to notice his creepy smile behind me as I wander into a small reserve that will hide us both from view.

Then I sprint off the trail.

He curses and charges after me. Even without the racket he makes as he tears through the thicket, my black eye easily finds exactly where he is, allowing me to keep the distance between us. At a particularly thick patch, I duck underneath, using my special sight to check that I’m truly out of view.

And now I wait until Uncle James comes.

I clamp my hands over my face to muffle my breathing. I’m not here. I’m a tree, the best tree that ever treed in this reserve. I’ll be fine.

With my heart beating in my ears, and my hand smooshed painfully into my face, I see the man snarl and kick at the plants around him. He’s in the wrong area, but either through skill or through luck, he’s slowly making his way towards me.

I quickly take my black eye off the shady man and look for Uncle James. He’s already at the entrance to the reserve with backup, but he’s not close enough. My stalker’s only two steps away from me.

The only sound I can hear is my frantic heartbeat and too-loud breathing. My body wants to gulp frantic mouthfuls of air, but I know that would give my location away, and then the very vegetation that’s keeping me hidden will also trap me in place.

I’m not here. I’m a tree. A mushroom. A rock. There’s nothing interesting here. Go away.

The man steps in. The thick grass between us brush against his clothes. He grabs an angry fistful and tears the top off. His arms sweep over my head, missing me by just a hand’s breadth. I can’t breathe. He only needs one more step to find me.

Then I hear my salvation.

“Hey you! Stop right there!”

~End~

Genre: fantasy

Camp NaNoWriMo short story count: 26/31