This was an image prompt. I knew a little about the source material – this is an image of a warrior who struggled to pursue her profession against perceptions of her gender. It gave me an idea of why she might be so angry.
This story isn’t about Cisca, but it is about someone in a similar position.
This image is the work and property of user ‘Josu Herniaz’ on Artstation, and is used here with the artist’s permission.
I forced him back. His sword came at me again, heavy and overpowering. I deflected it with my sword, but it wasn’t enough. I leaned the angle of my shoulder into the blow to glance it off my armor and despite all I had done to divert the force of it, my joint complained, something inside burning painfully. Now past his sword, I rammed the hilt of my sword into his throat. He went down like a tree, clawing at his throat, and I leaned over, sword poised to strike. His left eye, steel grey, the target of my sword, filled my vision as the target of my strike.
Continue reading “The Quiet of Rage”
The elf queen, hearing that yet another young hero was slain during a heroic monologue, decides she’s had enough. She gives her last magical weapon to the grizzled, no-nonsense human guard and says it’s up to him to slay the great evil.
“Dammit! Damn it all, another man dead while bragging to the enemy! Another blade lost! What do these idiots think dire blades are, Efran?”
I had not moved during her tirade. She would blow herself out and calm down. She never spoke to me, though. She spoke to her guards all the time, but never to Kirin, or Efran. I was surprised that she knew my name. “I don’t know, grace. But really, what are they? They’re not a birthright or a destiny. Just a rare and powerful tool.”
In her frustration, and being alone, she had laid across her throne. Her head laid on one arm, her knees hooked over the other. Now though, she flipped over, kneeling in the seat with her hands on the arm, and her ocean-blue eyes on mine. Her gaze was uncomfortably intense. Continue reading “Dire Gifts”
The Brave Knight has been kidnapped against his will by the Beautiful Princess, now it’s up to the Scary Dragon to go rescue him.
I awoke in bonds, hanging from my wrists. I lifted my head, taking my bearings; the inside of a cabin, perhaps a peasant dwelling. No tapestries, no trophies, no portraits, the furniture all made of unadorned wood. The wood wasn’t local, and though plain, the craftsmanship very good. A silver cross on the wall. Perhaps not a peasant’s home, but a tradesman’s, or a priest’s. Simple, but not poor.
My armor, which I had been wearing while out riding, lay piled on the table along with my sword belt. I twisted to look behind me – I had been tied to a support column, and there were cuffs of metal on my wrists, secured by a tightly fastened bolt. I could cry out, but would anybody hear me? I heard no horses or carriages, no sounds of human civilization.
Best not to alert my captor yet, if I could help it. I crouched, bracing my feet on the floor, and pushed back against the support column as hard as I could; perhaps I could break it. I strained against it with no luck, then lifted away, and slammed my back against it. “Don’t bother dear, the house is very sturdy.” I snapped my head up, and a familiar face came out from deeper within the house.
“Princess Ravencort? Karina? What the hell is going on here? Quickly, get over here and loose these shackles.”
She looked at me, a little surprised, then giggled, a sound like pure crystal. “Oh, Prince. Don’t fear. I kidnapped you.”
Continue reading “Gentle Slayer”
Valhalla does not discriminate against the kind of fight you lost. Did you lose the battle with cancer? Maybe you died in a fist fight. Even facing addiction. After taking a deep drink from his flagon, Odin slams his cup down and asks for the glorious tale of your demise!
Author’s note: It’s not the tale of his demise, but I think it adhered to the spirit of the prompt. Close enough.
In life, I never drank. In death, it was merriment and partying, and there was no work or reputation to worry about. I drank experimentally at first, then more freely. Soon I was drunker than I’d ever been, though that didn’t say much. Then the man at the head of the table – after all I’d seen, was it possible he was truly Odin? – slammed his cup down, making me jump.
“I look at our newest member, and I don’t see a warrior!” His voice carried down the hall of Valhalla, resonant and booming. “I see a paper-pusher! A functionary!” He spat the word as if it were a curse.
Continue reading “Defense Rests.”
You live in a world where you have three names printed on your wrist – your one true friend, one true love, and one true enemy. But only one name is printed on your wrist.
“Tess? Tess, if you’re in here, let me know you’re okay.”
I looked around, cautious, each step setting me drifting a good foot in the light gravity. Someone had fired a set of boosters to slow the station’s rotation; the final firing sequence had begun, and I couldn’t afford any loose ends at this point. I moved through the station compartment by compartment, always leading with my taser. The little weapon was dialed up to quite a lethal voltage but would be safe to fire on the station.
“Malcolm. I’m in here.”
I lowered the taser and moved into the compartment. “Thank god. Tess, are you okay? Did you see anybody?”
The kick hit me square in the chest, and in the low gravity, I tumbled straight through the inner door of the airlock. Tess flew backward against a wall, then leaped off the wall back toward the airlock controls. I scrambled forward, but I wasn’t fast enough. The door was built to cut off explosive decompression, and it slammed shut before I’d gotten an inch.
This is the first story in what I call the ‘Soul’ series, based on artwork by Kleg.(DeviantArt)
Artwork: City Lights, by Kleg. (DeviantArt)
I picked up speed down the gentle incline, leaning into the wind as the skateboard carried me faster and faster. At his hour there were few pedestrians out, and I slalomed back and forth, weaving past them. A shout, a curse, a whimpery gasp of fear as I whipped by pedestrians. I ignored them.
My hair streamed in the wind. The air tasted like freedom. And my mastery over the board under my feet, the hard-won affinity for this extension of my body, that tasted even better.
Then I was there. I pivoted my board and slid until I reached a full stop. I kicked the nose up and lifted it, slipped it through the cargo netting on my pack. My other hand raised the camera from my hip, holding it before me.
I took a moment and absorbed my surroundings. Behind me, cars whizzed up and down the overpass. The sun was setting, and I stood in the single place from which I could see the entire city. From this angle, I could see fragments of the city beyond and around every high-rise and office building.
Headlights crawled up and down the roads, and the building lights shone, turning on and off. There was not a single cloud, and the wind off the mountain had swept away the smog, leaving only a faint halo around each bright city light. I was not going to get a better shot.
Continue reading “Expression”
You run a night school for assassins. The other professional assassins loathe you for turning customers into self-sufficient killers. You would get frustrated by their constant attempts on your life, if they didn’t make for such good lessons for your students…
I strode across to the podium, before the diagram of the human skeleton and circulatory system. The class was small, ten people. I found it to be my optimum class size. Any more and my students began to look like a forest, not trees. Any less, and I might have trouble with my payments.
One tentative hand rose up. She was a slip of a girl. Her demeanor was timid, her hand trembling in the air. None of her classmates took her seriously. They were new, yet. Not all of them quite realized that I wasn’t here to teach them how to fight, but how to kill. Ellen’s ‘fragile flower’ act would serve her well.
Continue reading “Timid Reaper”
The love of your life has just died in your arms.
I strode across the battlefield, picking my way over the bodies to where she lay. The sun beat down on my face, beads of sweat mixing with blood, red droplets catching in my lashes. At least it wasn’t mine.
I knelt at her side, brushing her hair back. “Anya.” Her breath was fast and shallow, her eyes unfocused.
“Anya. Does it hurt?” She shifted and whimpered. Someone else shifted too, and I put my sword into his chest, letting it stay there for the moment.
“It hurts less,” she said. “But it’s so cold. Chris . . . I think this is it.”
Continue reading “A Soldier’s Mercy”