Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Publishing Revelations (Brangxi Airship Pt. 6)

Part six in the Brangxi serial. A table of contents for the series.

Terrance ran down back alleys filled with the effluvium of discarded trash rotting in the too-humid summer air. Footsteps, metal-tipped tacks with a too-long length between strides to be human, chased him and he glanced over his shoulder -- he couldn't help himself -- but saw no one. It wasn't a figment of his imagination. He reassured himself that he wasn't going mad. He'd seen the Brangxi throw the human punters off their ships to explode as they landed in the Graklii city and he'd heard the elders tell of the ongoing war between them and the Brangxi. He escaped. He glanced again over his shoulder just before he sprinted down another alley. At least he'd escaped so far.

He began to recognize the buildings as he neared the Manchester Observer's offices. A last burst of speed and he pushed into the back door hearing it squeak on its rusty hinges. He couldn't stop and let his beating heart slow. He must climb the stairs to the newsroom. Sweat stained his armpits and the weeks he'd spent in the Brangxi's cells left an odor on him.

Behind him, the door squeaked. He fled up the stairwell into the hallway and into the Observer's newsroom. Familiar faces turned away, their noses crinkling. He hurried through the floor, but C.P. Scott's office was empty. He needed the editor to hold the presses, eliminate the possibility of someone obstructing his story.

Terrance stopped at Jimmy's desk. "Where's CP?"

Jimmy's eyes widened. "Where you been? You stink."

"It's important."

A man Terrance had never seen in the newsroom approached. He wore an immaculate waistcoat with a gold-rimmed monocle hanging from a chain to one of the pockets. "CP's gone, I'm editor now. Who are you?"

Terrance doubted this editor was any good if he'd never heard of Terrance "Lightning" Whiteley. Terrance took a deep breath to stand up straight a finger taller than this new editor.

"Never mind that," said the editor. "You got a story?"

"I've got a big one. You've got to stop the presses. The Brangxi are killing the tourists who board their airships. Their promises of a month-long cruise and vacation are lies."

The editor's eyes bored into Terrance. "Do you have proof of what you claim?"

"Firsthand eyewitness."

"And? The libel laws, I need more."

Terrance's word would have been sufficient for CP. He dug a palm-sized gadget out of his trousers. "Graklii, the Brangxi nemesis, technology."

The editor plucked the gadget out of Terrance's hand. "Nice. An exposé should plump our numbers. Get writing."

Terrance slid behind his desk. Something rattled in the hallway and Terrance's heart skipped a beat. The editor shrugged and walked out into the hallway. Rough guttural sounds echoed along the hallway.

All of the reporters faces turned to look at the editor when he returned to the room.

"What are you looking at? Get to work."


Terrance slumped over his desk, his head propped on the edge of the typewriter. One of the newsboys tossed a paper on to Terrance's desk and Terrance blinked the sleep from his eyes. He opened the paper looking for his story. It should've had a forty-eight point font announcing his story, but all he found was stories about a missing body over in Whitehall and political trash. Paging through the paper he couldn't find his story anywhere.

His chair squeaked as he pushed away from the desk. The newsroom was almost empty, all the reporters gone for the day. A few newsboys ran their errands. The editor, in CP's old office, had drawn the shades closed over the window. Terrance stopped at the door raised his hand to knock but a rustling sound like papers being rubbed together stopped him and he peered in through a crack in the blinds.

There wasn't a man on the other side. Instead, the editor stood there with a green face and two slits where his nose should be. A skin-toned mask raised over its head fluttered in a fan blowing air from the window. Terrance stepped away from the door and bumped into a desk knocking over a vase with a red carnation.

"Who's out there?" It was the editor's voice, a soft gurgling caught the edge of his words.

Terrance ran for the newsroom's door as the editor's door opened. He looked over his shoulder and saw that the editor's mask had fallen back into place, yet the eyes glowed red as Terrance pulled open the door.

Stay tuned for the finale, part seven, Going Underground.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mau, The Master Navigator (#FridayFlash)

The Ma'ohi tell Mau's tale on the beaches where the fishers bring in the numbfish dragged nets filled with i'a. While the cooks gut and skin the i'a, mixing in the seaweed, salt, and limu to create poke, the fishers build a fire and begin the tale, hoping to attract the children who would rather play in the sand than expend themselves to learn the master navigator's way.

Voices boom around the fire as the sun sets. The stars haven't risen yet, won't speak until the bellies have been filled with poke. The story echoes and if the Ma'ohi are lucky, it plucks a chord in a child's soul.

Mau lived in an island village where the breadfruit grew lush beside the coconut and taro root. All was plentiful until one year absent rains turned the leaves brittle. Salt seas surrounded them where the God's sacred numbfish lived. Mau watched his people waste away and one day he paddled his koa board into the surf.

The cycle of day and night ended with dawn painting the horizon a pale yellow. The gray sheen of a numbfish broke above the water with its triangular wing-fin gliding beneath Mau's fingers. Mau had touched the sacred fish. He praised it and pledged his life to feed it, sliding off the koa board and into the salt waters. The numbfish bumped its head against his body, pushing him back towards the board. Words, a foreign language, flooded into Mau with blue-tinged images. Shining light streaked above him and he, master navigator, was the first of the Ma'ohi to read the star-writing. The words told of a school of fish swimming on the other side of the island. The numbfish towed Mau's koa board to the bay where Mau thumped the i'a against the koa before stacking the i'a. He brought the food home to the starving villagers.

Mau, the father navigator.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Doublecross (Brangxi Airship Pt. 5)

Part five in the Brangxi serial. A table of contents for the series.

"Lift the bars." Chester fished a bent metal wire wrapped around his gums underneath his lips and shaped the instrument into a hook. "I need you to release the pressure on the mechanism so I can pop the lock's gears."

Terrance strained at the bars, ten-foot heavy poles. Dim refractions bathed the cells sufficiently to light the room gray and Alexander, the explorer, stood in his cell with black suspenders dark against his lighter shirt. Terrance grunted as his hands became sweaty and his fingers cramped with the weight of the bars.

Chester wiggled the pick in the lock, scratches echoing through the cells and alerting Brangxi guards if they had this place bugged. "I've almost got it, so don't let the bars slip. Even a wimp of a reporter should be able to do that."

A final click and Chester pushed against the bars without a warning to Terrance who fell forward as the door opened. Chester hurried towards Alexander's cell as Terrance approached the steel door, nudging it open to look at the empty hallways.

"Hurry, the way is clear," whispered Terrance.

Chester glanced up from his fiddling with the picks, but shadows shrouded his face. His head twitched reminding Terrance of the Graklii elder. Terrance's skin crawled as he peeked through the crack in the doorway expecting to see an approaching Brangxi. The thought of waiting here for the others like a cow plodding towards the meat merchant's abattoir clogged his thoughts with visions of another failed attempt. He cringed at memories of the Brangxi soldier carrying him flailing back to the cages. Terrance pushed on the door.

Chester pulled Alexander's cell open with a creak and slid the pick back under his gums. "Never known a reporter with patience. Hold your hot-blooded death wish. If we get out, we get out through teamwork."

Alexander followed as Chester led the way his thoughts stewing on memories of what the Graklii elder had told him and the knowledge that he had to return to the news office and get the revelations published. The Brangxi weren't their friends. He remembered Xebla's long gams, a confusion he didn't understand, before shaking his head to concentrate on Chester and Alexander's echoing footsteps. They descended a stairwell into the depths of the airship and away from freedom. Terrance choked a protest. Chester had a way of twisting Terrance's words against him, belittling him. Silent, Terrance followed, lost in the airship's maze.

They stopped before a door, the only sound a creaking of the airship's metal hull. The door didn't budge and Chester retreated to ram a shoulder against the door with a thump.

"All three of us, together."

Chester held up three fingers dropping one at a time until they threw themselves against the door, a harsh bone-rattling crash, that splintered the door's mechanism as the door fell open. Inside, Chester ran to the far side of the room and slid wing bolts open to release a panel in the airship's side. Bright light shone into the room.

Copper-tinged air whistled through the panel and Terrance slid his hands along the edge of the ship looking at the green trees flickering in the winds. "Parachutes?"

Chester sat on the floor with his legs splayed wide as he pulled a drawer from the opposing wall to spray metal parts across the floor. "The Brangxi count the parachutes nightly, impossible to obtain them without alerting the Brangxi. Terrance, slide over the parts from that drawer."

Chester pieced metal flanges over a metal tube and secured latches to pull the tube tight with a metal cone tipped across the top. A metal screech sounded behind Terrance and he turned to see Alexander lifting a cylinder over one of the pipes.

"Stop," yelled Terrance. "The Brangxi use those to communicate."

Alexander stepped away from the piped contraption that descended from the roof. "I... I'm sorry."

"Stop your yammering." Chester nodded his head at another one of the drawers. "Defend the door while I finish assembling."

"What are you making?" asked Terrance.

"A steam sail. Don't stare at me like a whelp, go help Alexander."

The floor of the airship vibrated as footsteps approached. Terrance and Alexander held revolvers and shot as the Brangxi neared. Ricochets careened off the metal walls and the peppery metal taste of gunpowder filled Terrance's mouth.

"I'm done." Chester stood with a metal canister on his back and two slings slid out to either side of him.

Terrance couldn't imagine hanging onto the thin leather straps as they flew out the panel. "What about us?"

"I'll tie you in." Chester waited but no one moved. "Or I can leave you and go by myself."

A pistol fired and Chester's chest became a raw red wound. Chester fell against the far wall slowly sinking to the floor.

"No," said Alexander. "No one escapes the Brangxi."


Alexander leveled the pistol at Terrance. "Sorry, they made a deal, full rights to explore their world and I'll be the first human to see these lands. Now, drop that pistol."

Terrance bent to drop the pistol rolling forward as the pistol clattered to the floor and he knocked Alexander over. He struggled. A gurgle and then Alexander's hands released Terrance. Chester had wrapped one of the leather straps around Alexander's neck choking the man until he fell limp to the floor.

Chester pulled a watch off his wrist and slid it towards Terrance. "Sorry, you're going to have to fly this thing without me. You think a reporter can do it?" A trace of a smile curled the edge of Chester's lip.

Terrance swallowed. "I can't just leave you."

"You must. Take the watch. There's a bookseller in Greenwich who will know what to do."

"But --"

Chester's eyes closed. "Get going. Prove that not all reporters are turncoats."

Continue to part six, Publishing Revelations.

Corporate Training

A response to Heather Hansen's "Tell the Story" in Flashy Fiction.

Robber barons with their tick-tock men, more of them then Constance had ever seen in a single place, sat in the galley with furled velvet curtains over the gold filigreed supports of the airship. Constance stood on a teak podium before a paper drum display whose gear she engaged to slide the paper to the introductory information with her name emblazoned in scarlet letters. She felt sorry for the tick-tock men, the idiot barons had been warned; yet, a little of the disgust settled on herself and her throat felt thick.

"Welcome to Lady Minerva's teamwork challenge training. We thank you for your support and without further ado I will begin the training. Imagine you're in an airship."

The robber barons laughed at her words. It wasn't so difficult to imagine when you felt the airship's turbulence. Not too bad, once you got used to it.

"Your ship is about to crash."

The airship rocked and left the room pitched at a slight angle.

"There is one lifeship that can hold six men." Constance, looking at the robber barons's bulged waistcoats, wondered if the ship would even hold six. "You must work as a team to escape."

A mustached man, James William III, asked, "What about our men?"

The airship's support snapped and the room tipped to crash the robber barons across the floors, sliding them into the gold filigreed walls. A baron yanked at the red velvet curtains to tear it from the golden rings as he yelled at his tick-tock man, the gears turning as the tick-tock's limbs swung with that stop-go motion. Constance, braced against the podium, had managed to avoid falling. Her role was over, but in wonder she watched the robber barons like a boy watching ants swarm around a hill that he just kicked.

James William III crawled from the belly of the airship onto the deck. The other robber barons followed him in his wake. She waited until they had safely left the room and then she climbed to a perch beneath the airship's balloon. The ship shook, it wouldn't last long.

James Williams III turned with his tick-tock man beside him. "No," he shouted. "My man comes with me."

Constance's breath was cold in her throat. The weight of them would be too much forcing the escape ship to sink under their weight. They wouldn't survive. Where was this teamwork that her boss had told her they would find. The torn leather of the sail felt rough in her hands. Constance ran across the bucking deck.

"The ships only safe for six. Leave the tick-tock men."

James William III elbowed one of the robber barons trying to squeeze past him onto the ship and the man flailed into the air falling. No, thought Constance. This wasn't the way it was supposed to go. James and one of the other robber barons boarded the ship allowing four of the tick-tock men to join him. Why take the other men's tick-tock men without taking the owners? Constance's heart beat like the fluttering of the torn sail in the wind as the lifeship descended out of sight. The remaining robber barons turned to her. A sickness in their eyes and she backed away from them. The way they moved, desperate men. She ran back to the edge of the airship where the wings of her glider lie and she pulled at it as the robber barons closed on her. They tore at her wings, the wind whistling in their hair.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Robin Bonnett (#FridayFlash)

A response to T.S. Bazelli's "Author Aerobics: Make It Fresh Challenge" posted in her blog, Ink Stained. The Challenge: Take a stereotype, cliché, or topic that's been done to death, and write a scene (1000 words or less) that infuses a fresh spin on things. The theme: sparkle? hah just kidding! "Thirst".

Robin and her merry squad squeezed into Sherwood Badland's crevices as Midge, the lookout, measured the klicks traveled by the Sheriff's armored hovercar hauling excessive taxes. A final tap as the car entered the final klick radius and Midge dropped under a ledge. Robin glanced up at the mirror affixed to an outcropping that caught the sun's light to reflect onto her laminbow's cartridge. Her merry squad mirrored her actions as the ground rumbled with the exhaust from the hovercar and its escort.

The first hovercycles passed their positions and as planned her squad took aim on their preassigned vehicle, letting all of the escort enter into the mouth of the ambush. She nodded and as one her squad drew the string on their laminbows and released the string to power a laser flash that perfectly blasted the hovercycles while Robin waited a breath for the armored hovercar to pause. As it began its retreat, the blast engines expelled sand grains to suffocate any guards who had lived while the grains of sand clattered over Robin's goggles and breathing mask. The ship cleared away the previously deployed mirror underneath and Robin fired her laser bolt off the mirror into the hovercar's engine. It shuddered once, twice, and then crashed against the edge of the badland ridge. A half squad of six sheriff agents swarmed out of the armored car laser rifles propped against a shoulder. Robin and her merry squad pinned them with shots from their laminbows as they waited for the federal agents to exhaust their gun's battery packs.

Robin tore the goggles and face mask off leaving them to careen down the side of the badland ridge. She walked forward while her merry squad covered her. Robin recognized Gisbourne, one of the sheriff's men, by his cheek tattooed with glowing phosphorous numbers.

Gisbourne shouted, "Should've known it was you. Robin, you won't succeed. If you leave now, We'll overlook this incident."

"Incident?" Robin licked her lips as her merry squad emerged from their hiding places. "A nice offer, but you're taking that water from a desiccated village. They need it, you don't."

Brother Tuk sidestepped Robin to deliver a spinning backfist to Gisbourne's jaw. The punch's momentum lifted Gisbourne off the desert floor to fall lifeless. The Thai Brother bent in a deep wai of respect to the fallen agent. Brother Tuk kneeled and searched the man, finding a silicon drop. "Bugged."

Robin cursed their luck; the g-force from Brother Tuk's punch would've transmitted a call for assistance. "Scarlet, I need that hovercar moving. The rest of you, back to your ambush positions."

Two of the Merry squad guarded the remaining Sheriff agents, while the rest of the tan-clothed highwaymen disappeared into Sherwood's shadows. Robin paced as Brother Tuk stood behind her.

Robin approached the hovercar. "You got it working yet?"

Only Scarlet's legs extended beyond the hovercar's frame. "Did you have to burn the sucker so thoroughly?"

"Never do anything halfway."

A disc, flown in by five helicopter troopships with the Sheriff's N emblazoned on the side, eclipsed the sun leaving the badlands in darkness. "Surrender yourselves," echoed the Sheriff's voice over the loudspeaker.

Robin guessed the Sheriff hadn't seen the men hiding in the badlands, but with five troopships the Sheriff could rappel sufficient men down the cliff to deal with all of her squad. Not a gamble she was willing to take without laminbows.

The hovercar coughed and raised with a shake as Scarlet slid out from under it.

Robin walked forward tossing her laminbow into Sherwood's sand. "Sheriff, I'll make you a deal. You can have me, without a fight, if you let my men go."

Brother Tuk exhaled. "No, you can't let him have you."

Tortures to crush Robin's spirit. Robin imagined the Sheriff drooled thinking about how he'd break her. She grimaced. "Tuk, promise me. Get this water to those who need it. When you rescue me, don't take chances, but get me out of his clutches soon."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Author's Note: Sweden

In case you are wondering (*), I am in Sweden this week (and next) for the other job and have less time than usual to write. For some reason, the US office thinks I should continue working until 6pm Pacific time (3am CEST) and the Sweden office gets revving before 8am (CEST). Hope all of you are having a good week. I am planning on getting a post completed for the Author's Aerobics, but it will be posted later than usual for me (i.e. tomorrow). Besides, I've been hogging first completed aerobics the last couple of weeks.

(*) Do people wonder?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Breakout (Brangxi Airship Pt. 4)

Part four in the Brangxi serial. A table of contents for the series.

Xebla leaned against the pillows as she puffed a cigarette held in her ivory quellazaire. Her long legs, capped by knee-high boots with stiletto heels, stretched over the never-ending bed. Terrance stared at the top of the bed, nearly eye level from the Brangxi chair where Terrance buttoned his waistcoat over a tatterred shirt where long rips exposed blood-crusted scratches.

"After your mishap on the airship, you landed in Graklii territory."

"Yes," said Terrance. He had described his escapades earlier, before she'd proven herself more than just an interrogator. Breathing the nicotine-filled air, he couldn't think of her as an enemy.

"You skimmed over the week where you stayed with the Graklii. Did you battle their champion to gain their confidence?"

"No." Terrance strapped a watch underneath his cuffs. "They nursed me back to health; I wasn't conscious at first."

Almost too quiet to hear, Xebla muttered. "Rakxi's wrong about his scheme."


Xebla twisted to her bedside table where a tray stood supporting a series of pipes that dropped from the ceiling. Xebla lifted one of the cylinders over the pipes. Air screeched as she exposed black slits beneath the sheath. "Don't worry about it. Time to return to your -- shall we say -- room."

Terrance braced his arms on the footboard. "I thought you said I would go free."

"Perhaps. You have amused me." She rummaged in a drawer beneath the piped contraption and held a chain with a glass vial, which she tossed to Terrance. "A sleeping powder, the rest is up to you. I would hide that if I were you, the guard will arrive to escort you. They are punctual when the whistle sounds."

Terrance looped the chain over his neck and dropped the vial beneath his shirt as the door opened.


That evening the steel door to the cells opened as a Brangxi guard entered with three dinner trays balanced on his arm. Terrance moved forward as Chester slept on his bed with his back to the cell. Careful to not breathe in, he sneezed into his hand causing dust particles to scatter away from his hand into the guard's face. The guard's muscles became slack and the dinner trays splattered to the ground. Holding his breath, Terrance backed away from the iron bars and took one of his blankets to fan the billowing dust away.

"Hey," shouted Alexander. "That's our dinner."

"We won't need dinner." Terrance inched forward, preparing to retreat if he felt any sleepiness. He'd spoken with Alexander, the snorer from the previous night, when he returned from Xebla's rooms. Alexander might be jailed but he wasn't gruff like Chester. Terrance snaked his arms through the bars to try and grab the ring of keys. He pressed his shoulders against the bars, but the keys teased him out of reach. He grabbed a shoe and tried to hook the key ring on the heel of the shoe, but his shoe bumped the keys, pushing them away.

Terrance looked around the room, but saw nothing to help him retrieve the keys. He was so close. So far away. He took his frock coat and tried to use it to slide the keys to no avail. He turned surveying the cell. Chester snored. Yes, the boots. Chester's boot was long enough that he could hold the boot and spear the ring with the toe to pull the keys. Terrance unlocked his door and ran down to Alexander's cell to free him as well.

As they returned past Terrance's cell, Alexander stopped. "We should bring Chester with us." Alexander slapped Chester's face.

"He's not going to wake." Terrance hadn't trusted Chester and he'd guaranteed that Chester wouldn't interfere with the escape. "Come on."

Outside the steel door, Terrance turned to the right but Alexander placed a hand on his shoulder.

"Fewer guards this way," whispered Alexander.

They zigzagged along the corridors to hurry to a corner where they could peek to see if anyone approached. Alexander watching to ensure that no one approached from the rear. At the third corner they stopped, Terrance peeked around the corner to run into a Brangxi. He slipped to the ground as the Brangxi's grasping arm brushed Terrance's collar. Alexander pulled Terrance away from the guard and together they turned, barreling down the hallways. They passed a stairwell and Terrance paused to run up the steps but Alexander tugged on his arm.

"The only way out is the upper deck," said Terrance.

"No, I know better way." Alexander ran down the hallway.

Terrance pressed himself against the edge of the stairway as the Brangxi turned the corner and ran past the stairway to follow Alexander's retreating footsteps. Terrance paused, caught his breath, and climbed up the stairs. He watched the tall steps as he climbed and missed the Brangxi sailor waiting at the top of the steps with his hands on his fists. A single motion and Terrance found himself struggling upside down held over the Brangxi's shoulder.

Stay tuned for part five, Doublecross.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Ash Dance

A response to Deb Markanton's "May I Have This Dance?" in Flashy Fiction and the striking of a certain proposition in California.

A light machine flashed red and green as Jake tapped a folding chair beside Zach. "Mind if I sit here?"

"Go ahead."

All the Lovers blared from the speakers. Couples danced mashed together on the court floor as hands raced with a wild hormonal rush. "It's a meat market out there."

"Not my scene."

Three simple words. Jake swallowed the saliva in his throat thick with syrup as he looked into Zach's green eyes to find a face he'd never appreciated. Never considered. Possibilities. "Didn't you come with Olivia?"

"Just friends." Acknowledgment in Zach's smile. Subtle, so the piranhas wouldn't notice. "It's hot in here, talk outside?"

"Sure." Jake rose into a cloud of cheap perfume and cologne. Crap, crap, crap. Vanessa Turner, fire in her eyes, bounced across the gym to the beat of Kylie. Jake turned, hoping to get out the door with Zach.

A tap on Jake's shoulder.

"Hey Jake, word has it you know how to twirl a girl."

Iron balls rattled within Jake's lungs. Years of being dragged to dance parties by his single mother had taught him one thing, you never said no when someone asked you to dance. Unless you had an excuse. "Zach and I were talking."

A hiss as the fire in Vanessa's eyes died.

"No, no," said Zach. "You go ahead." Ice.

No excuses. Vanessa smoldered as Jake took her hand to squeeze through the bodies onto the floor.

Right, left, backstep. Right, left, backstep. Vanessa moved with him following the beat, following his leads. A twist, a turn and then two arms yanked to catch her spun in close, her breath smoky. A space emerged around them. A dip, a slide. Right, left, backstep. The other couples circled to watch as Jake walked Vanessa through the first steps of an aerial. Tasting, teasing. A perfect follow. Words he'd learned at the dance studio. It doesn't matter how you dance; make the girl look good, make the guys want her and make the girls want to be her. Over their heads, Jake saw the gym door open to the blackness beyond; the clang of the door drowned by the electronic beat. The music ending as Jake lifted Vanessa into a toss.

Jake fled the dance floor, Vanessa billowing in his wake. Hands, cool hands, touching him but none of them slaking the thirst. He pushed through the door, but outside it was empty.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Nipping at Mani's Heels

A response to T.S. Bazelli's "Author Aerobics: Layered Conflict Challenge" posted in her blog, Ink Stained. The Challenge: Write a story (1000 words or less) that involves multiple layers of conflict. This week's theme: "shadows".

Bryselsfild's horse cantered past the manor's gates. A lock of her blonde hair braided around her circlet to reflect orange highlights from the moon's rising pulled behind Mani's carriage. Lothar watched the shadows scamper in her wake, a queen's guard, as his last words -- a denial -- burned his throat like mealy fish. She rode with her back unerringly straight, like the prow of a Viking ship, like her late husband, as she climbed the hillock without a single glance back. Lothar wondered if she knew the cost of her request.


Lothar lifted his youngest daughter, Bryselsfild's half-sister, and she nuzzled against the weave of his tunic as he closed the manor's door. "Why are you awake?"

"The dreams."

Nightmares. Every night for the past fortnight. Lothar stroked her hair as he settled in his chair. Firelight flickering over her cheeks reminded him of Bryselsfild's request, a night without shadows. He rocked his youngest daughter as the fire warmed his serrated skin. "They are dreams, not reality. Images of what might be, not what is." Images of what Lothar knew would be. No way to stop this madness, the shadows merely a gamble. "Let the fire warm you, calm your thoughts. Think of butterflies flitting through a meadow."

"The dreams. Fire, knives, blood. I saw her."

"Loki's trick. You heard her voice as we talked and he slipped her into your dreams." Lothar squeezed his daughter's tiny fingers.

"I'm scared."

"I'm here for you," said Lothar. The fire sparked streaks of light that ricocheted on the bricks. The years afflict an old man like Lothar breaking down the distance of years past. Memories of another golden-haired girl staring up at him as he sipped his mead and made promises.


"As long as I can." If only that would be long enough.

Lothar rocked her until her eyes became heavy like the moonlight shining through the windows. He left her in her bed, a quilted blanket hugging her body as her fingers bunched the pillow. He left with his bearskin coat to follow in Bryselsfild's wake.

A league from home, he took the left fork away from the horseshoes and footsteps that stood out in relief in the moon's pale light. He left the path to slip between the trees.

Laughter. Two Ærin's spawn capered along the path with ale-filled horns dripping black dots upon the path. A Valkyrie followed in their wake, her walk dismissive. Lothar held his breath as it burned in his chest. The Valkyrie passed him, moving further away.

Lothar sneezed.

The Valkyrie's hair flared as she stared at Lothar's tree. Seconds passed. She turned to follow the drunken gods who hadn't stopped.

Lothar approached the fenced pen where the wolf, Hati, slept chained to a granite rock. As Lothar slipped through the wooden slats of the fence, Hati opened a yellowed eye. The wolf growled.

"Quiet," said Lothar. "I come to free you."


"It is said you can consume the moon pulled by Mani's carriage. An eclipse to vanquish the shadows. I will free you if you can do this task."

"I can." Hati stood, no longer growling.

Iron links locked Hati to the ground and Lothar could not find a weak spot. He tried to convince himself that this was enough, he'd tried. He dared more than most to approach the wolf. He could leave the hate chained to the ground and return to his youngest daughter. He climbed the fence as the wolfhound watched him. No, he sighed. Lothar climbed a tree with a sharp rock in his hands, which he used to break a bough of the birch tree. Sliding down from the tree, the branch looked like a bone in his hand. With his leather tunic tie, he made a hammer.

Hati watched as Lothar smashed one of the links. Each hammer hit echoed off the hills, the Valkyrie would return soon. The chain-link shattered and Hati pounced, knocking Lothar to the ground.

"We had a deal," said Lothar.

"Yes, and I need food to chase Mani."

The wolfhound's teeth gnawed Lothar's arms and torso. Lothar's blood dripped onto the ground as he watched Hati fly into the sky in pursuit of Mani. The patter of the Valkyrie's footsteps neared. They stopped and turned away as the moon eclipsed.

Lothar's last words a whisper. "Bryselsfild, I was here for you."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Imprisoned (Brangxi Airship Pt. 3)

Part three in the Brangxi Airship serial. Previous parts include: Part 1: Brangxi Airship, and Part 2: Returning Home.

The Brangxi guard shoved Terrance into the wood-paneled stairwell where Terrance tripped on a step to careen against the airship's walls. His hands chafed in cuffs behind his back as he slipped forward, his cheek sliding against the grain of the wooden stairs. Terrance lay prone on the landing listening to skin rustle as the Brangxi slid his hands along the handrails to land with a thump beside Terrance. Unceremoniously lifted to his feet, Terrance wobbled forward. A left turn and two more rights made Terrance marvel at the sheer size of the Brangxi's airship.

Rivets, spaced approximately a handspan apart, lined the edge of a steel door. The Brangxi guard unlocked the door with his ring of keys. Behind the door, Terrance entered a hallway, the roof nearly three times his height, and steel bars as thick as his forearms spanned between the wooden floorboards to the roof. The Brangxi unlocked a cell pushing Terrance inside to stumble as his momentum carried him into a cot where a man slept with his back to the room and only grease-scummed hair that hung in ringlets. The Brangxi grunted as the cell's bars locked shut and Terrance jostled the bed. The man bolted upright. Hands closed around Terrance's throat as he was shaken staring into the man's unkempt beard that was thick as two day old congealed coffee.

"Never wake me again," said the man as he released Terrance.

The steel door clanged shut.

"Sorry, he --"

Terrance's cellmate curled up on his bed with his back to the cell. Someone snored in one of the other cells. A second bed stretched on the other side of the cell and Terrance sat on it as the springs creaked. His cellmate wrapped an elbow over his head. Terrance shifted trying to get comfortable with his arms still locked behind him.

Terrance's cellmate stared down at the cot. "Can't sleep with all your wiggling." He set a leather boot on the thin-striped mattress. "Hold out your hands, I'll get those cuffs off." Metal scratched the handcuffs as Terrance's cellmate pulled on Terrance's arm. "Name is Chester, in case you're wondering."

Terrance rubbed his hands and then patted his pocket where he kept his pocket knife except the bulge was empty, a phantom. It was almost as bad as not having his notebook, but at least he had his mind. "Terrance. How long have you been here?"

"Long enough to know to sleep when you get a quiet moment."

A snore so deep it vibrated skin came from one of the other cells.

"Who else is imprisoned down here?" asked Terrance.

"I said go to sleep." Chester slid under his blanket, boots and all. "Who do you think you are? Some dog-tailed reporter?"

Terrance wondered why they had placed him in the cell with this loon. "So what if I am?"

Chester stopped his torso propped on his elbows as his eyes narrowed to close on Terrance. "There isn't enough air in these cells for a turncoat."

Terrance strutted towards Chester. He didn't need to put up with the man's needling. He'd escaped from the Brangxi's grasp once and had almost evaded them to get home. "I'd think that any man locked up would be a good sign we're on the same side."

Chester's hand reached up to grab Terrance's biceps pulling him down with hands blistered with papery calluses. "Be careful what you think." The man's breath smelled of cabbage gone bad.

Behind them, the room's door clanged. Chester pushed Terrance away to crash against his cot and turned away from the doorway.

"Who's that?" asked Terrance.

"You don't want to get her attention," whispered Chester.

"Don't want to get my attention?" The Brangxi woman towered at least eight feet tall in her boned corset and leather tight-fitted pants. "Would you trust him?"

Terrance glanced at Chester who had his back to the room and wondered whether she had heard their conversation before she entered the Brangxi brig. "Can you get me out of here?"

She flicked her hips to jangle finger-long keys draping from an iron ring that hung from a hook below the edge of the corset. "Of course, I can."

"Don't listen to Xebla." Chester mumbled from his bed.

"For good?"

"Depends if you make it worth my time," said Xebla. She unlocked the door and guided Terrance into the hallway with the crook of her elbow on his shoulder and her hand stretching down to his hip. "I've got some questions I need you to answer." Xebla pushed Terrance through the steel door which slammed behind them. "How come we found you on our planet with Graklii technology?"

Continued in part four: Breakout.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Awards and Seven Things

I am blessed by the many bloggers and writers that I have met through twitter, Friday flash, and blogs. I am flattered that over the last couple of months I have won several awards. It started the last day of May when Mari awarded me the one lovely blogger award. Mari is an indefatigable writer with an outrageous imagination and a willingness to accept any challenge (even to go so far as to write about zombie angels) who recently ran the #zombieluv contest. If you're not familiar with her, check out her blog, Mari's Randomities.

The contest rules were:

1. Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.

2. Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered.

3. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

I don't follow rules well -- if you really want me to follow a rule, you should explain why the rule exists -- and tend not to participate in memes. However, I decided to accept the award and write a flash fiction in response to fifteen other bloggers. I don't think I realized how difficult this task would become. However, two months later and I have completed my variant of the contest.

In that time, I have been awarded additional one lovely blog awards and versatile blogger awards. These have come from:

Catherine Russell who blogs at Ganymeder and posts a variety of interesting fiction. Her stories tend to have humor and a love for life that I enjoy.

Gracie Motley who blogs at Crone's Cauldron Publications. Her stories tend to have a fantastical element to them and she is talented at writing serials and creating complex plots that end abruptly and always leave you wanting more.

T.S. Bazelli who blogs at Ink Stained. I first ran across one of Tessa's stories posted to Friday flash and she does a stellar job of creating worlds, characters, and plots. She also writes and author aerobic's challenge every Monday and has been a great incentive to work on a specific part of the writer's craft.

Stephen Watkins who blogs at the Undiscovered Author. Stephen has three full-time jobs (I'm counting the writing as one of his jobs) and writes epic fantasy, however recently he wrote a fantastic science-fiction story as well.

The rules of the awards have morphed as I've received different versions and so I'm going to modify them again as if I'm playing a game of telephone. In addition to listing my fifteen recipients of the awards, I will tell you seven things about me. However, stealing from one of the other awards that circulate I will include six truths and one lie to keep things interesting.

1. I've held a vast number of job titles over the years. Job titles for jobs that I've been paid for include: Bagger, Sodder, Monitor, Keeper, Dancer, Professor, Baker, Director, Muso, and Architect. I hope to add Writer to that list, but I haven't yet and will persist in working towards that goal.

2. I have swum effectively the distance from New York City to San Francisco, although not in a single swim.

3. I have been deemed an honorary Swede and have been working at learning the language. I read at approximately a ten-year-old capacity while speaking at a two-year-old level. Mostly my vocabulary is based on politics: murder (mord), war (krig), and prostitution (köpa sex).

4. I have white-water rafted on two continents and rock-climbed in three states; however, I have never rock-climbed in a climbing gym.

5. I am paler than my brother, I have hated garlic bread, and I slept in what could be called a coffin for a summer.

6. I have won an Emmy, or a better description is that I contributed to the team whose efforts won an Emmy.

7. I have never completed nanowrimo.

Award recipients:

1. Adam Keeper, a flash fiction writer who writes humorous science fiction and fantasy stories.

2. Deb Markanton, one of the talented woman who post writing prompts to the Flashy Fiction blog. She's written parts of serials to her blog and is currently working on her novel.

3. Nathaniel Lee, who posts one hundred word drabbles to his blog six times a week. He has an awesome creativity and I love the unique viewpoint with which he looks at the world.

4. T.S. Bazelli, who I've introduced above since she nominated me for an award.

5. Oliver Fluck, a photographer who takes beautiful pictures. His pictures of Iceland make me want to go there some day.

6. Leila writes at "Stretching My Brain". Her stories are imaginative and you should check them out.

7. Viktor Bijlenga is a Swedish blogger who I met when Anders Frick twitted about him and some of the ideas he had regarding social networks. He is also a budding photographer so even if you don't read Swedish, you could view his images.

8. Jörgen photo-blogs at "Intryck, uttryck, avtryck" (Impressions & Expressions). I first found his blog when I researched mörkt älvor and found his gorgeous -- sometimes abstract -- pictures with their hilarious captions.

9. P. Chand whose conversations sparked a story for me, and unfortunately lately I haven't been on twitter frequently enough to have more conversations.

10. Elijah Toten is a writer who participates in the Friday flash community (he posts his friday flash here) and has an interesting perspective in his writing that I enjoy.

11. Laura Eno writes at "A Shift in Dimensions" and often writes about Death and Chronos, however her other writing is also outstanding.

12. J.P. Cabit who writes at the "House of Happy" and has just begun a serial story. He enjoys a good puzzle and also will hide things in his writing.

13. Stephen Watkins was also introduced above.

14. Isabel Joely Black writes at "AMNAR: Isabel Joely Black" and has several serials that she is writing as well as participating in the Friday flash community.

15. I'm cheating and awarding a doubleheader to Tiffany Saxton and Annie Syed. Tiffany Saxton participates in the Friday flash community and has a proper respect for the fae. Annie Syed was awarded a one lovely blog by Mari and I hadn't intended to include her, however, I've broken enough rules and I really enjoy her Tuesday photo series stories as well as her slices of life called Still Sundays and enjoy my chats with her those rare times when I'm on twitter.

As far as accepting your awards, feel free to choose whatever rules you would like.

I must thank Mari for originally awarding the award to me because it has led me to discover many of the writers above who I met as I searched for new writers.