Flash Fiction Month 2016, Day 30
The corpse of the dragon lay steaming upon the floor, the marks of its wrath seared permanently into the cavern walls. Yet the heroes stood victorious. Leaving the dragon to stink and smoulder, they ventured deeper into its lair, appraising the stock of treasure the winged terror had amassed across the ages.
“This will ease the suffering of our land…” observed Khemaghan the Keen, lifting a gem-studded chalice, worth several fortunes on its own.
“…but it will not repair the devastation that the beast has wrought.” Quilbar the Quick was troubled by the same thought.
“We beat it,” said Skondar the Strong, speaking firmly as ever. “We won. It’s over.”
But from the bones of the dragon, there sprang forth a new threat. For in its hoard—beyond the reach of mortal man for years known only to the gods—there stood a copper lamp upon a bare pedestal. In every other room, gold and jewels had lain strewn across the floor, a careless bed for the vile serpent.
In this room, the floor was bare. A perfect, solid circle of clear stone marked a perimeter about the pedestal, as though gold and silver feared to draw too close to the base metal that stood atop it.
Flash Fiction Month 2015, Day 20
“Sir, about the alien invasion.”
“Yes?” The general turned to the implausibly photogenic scientist. Without some kind of technological breakthrough, there was no way the military would be able to repel the alien fleet.
“I’m afraid our extensive research has proven fruitless.” The scientist began to count on his fingers: “We’ve proven conclusively that the aliens are not especially susceptible to the common cold or other Earth diseases. They are not allergic to water. Country music does not make their heads explode.” He shrugged. “That’s pretty much all we had.”
“I see.” The general clasped his hands behind his back and stared at the big neon map of the world on the wall. “Is there no way we can hold them back?”
“Well…” the scientist flipped through the sheets of paper on his clipboard. “We did initially manage to slow their advance by scattering LEGO bricks on key bridges and junctions, but then they put shoes on. There was some talk of trying the same thing with marbles, and…” he scanned the remaining sheets. “No, we haven’t yet managed to replicate that early success.”
“So what you’re saying is that the alien invasion force could burst through those doors at any moment?”
The general pointed to the doors of the War Room, which burst open at that very moment. Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2015, Day 15
In times of uncertainty, it was the custom of the clans to place their idols in the temple on the mountain, and seek answers from the gods. The clan of the river brought an idol of gold. The clan of the forest brought an idol of wood. The clan of the hillside brought an idol of stone.
“Almighty gods,” the three oracles called in unison. “We wish to know which of our clans you hold in highest esteem. Leave your mark upon the idol so that we may know.”
This troubled the gods, for they knew that to favour one clan above the others was likely to breed war among them. However, to give no sign would let the matter fester, and likely breed war still. The gods deliberated late into the night. It was decided that they would send a storm to smite the temple, and make their displeasure known.
At midnight the oracles saw the lightning strike the spire, and at dawn they visited the ashes of the temple.
The idol of gold had melted all across the floor, and from this the oracle of the river surmised that her clan had been chosen, because the idol had been made one with the temple.
The idol of wood had been burned away completely, and from this the oracle of the forest surmised that her clan had been chosen, because the idol had been taken up to heaven.
The idol of stone remained upon the altar, and from this the oracle of the hillside surmised that her clan had been chosen, because the idol had been spared.
All three oracles brought their news down the mountain, and all three clans were satisfied.
It wasn’t quite what the gods had had in mind, but, they supposed, it got the job done.
If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:
Click any cover to download that book in your choice of format.
Flash Fiction Month 2015, Day 14
Once upon a time there lived a Sultan, ruler over a rich land. Wise founder of a thriving city, he would once a year open up his grand palace to accept gifts from his subjects, and to bestow gifts in return.
The first guest was a merchant, robed in garments of fine silk. “I bring a hundredweight of salt, in the hopes that your highness will permit me to continue trade with the nations to the East.”
The Sultan knew the merchant well: he travelled far to earn his coin and was in truth as much an emissary as a trader. “Your gift is received gladly,” he said, “and mine gladly given.”
And so the merchant departed, and the second guest arrived. This man was an artisan, dressed in white linen. “I bring a golden statuette, in the hopes that your highness will remember my work when he has deeds to commemorate or gardens to furnish with pleasing things.”
The Sultan knew the artisan too, for this was the man who had sculpted his likeness for the public square. “Your gift is received gladly,” he said, “and it will be remembered.”
And so the artisan departed, and the third guest arrived. Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2015, Day 5
“So what are you in for?”
“Oh, nothing much.” Carl vigorously chalked his cue, buying precious time. “The boss wanted some stuff stolen from a place, it didn’t go to plan…the usual.”
“Huh.” The inmate with the prominent widow’s peak lined up his shot, took it, and sent the cue ball spinning into the corner pocket. “Was the place anywhere interesting?”
“Uh…” Carl put the cue ball back on the table and sank a red into the side pocket. “Not really. You know, standard secret lab. Nothing out of the ordinary.” It was more or less true. He took his next shot, leaving another red covering the corner pocket.
The inmate took his turn. A wild jab from the cue sent the ball flying off the table and bouncing noisily across the floor. “Frank!” he shouted. “Little help?”
Frank tossed the ball back.
The inmate caught it and handed it to Carl. “So what was the stuff?” Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2015, Day 4
Challenge #2: “The Blue Pill.” Write a 600-word piece, which must incorporate dreams or dreamlike imagery. Also, it should have elements of stream of consciousness writing included somewhere within.
Lord Harlington pushes between phosphorescent strands of growth stretching for the lightless sky. A shame that the world has furnished him with no game greater than the elephant—but there are hunting grounds beyond the world, and lands darker than darkest Africa.
Cold, stagnant water in knee-high boots. The warning click of the Ferniot counter. Shut it off. What threat is ALICE exposure after Malaria in Nairobi? After fever in the Congo? His quarry is near: a few dark tendrils waving above the glowing multitude. He readies his weapon: a shotgun over a large-calibre rifle.
In the overgrowth, progress is unnaturally slow. Everything is silent, calm. Bright shoots curl around Harlington’s coat, drag across the fabric, then retreat as he passes. Despite the cold, he remembers India, the trail through the wilderness, the guide who vanished into the grass and was never seen again. He presses on, wading through the stalks until they thin out into a kind of clearing.
The creature is vast. A buoyant, gas-filled thing that has descended to drink. Harlington traces the sights across its form, looking for some vital place to put the shot. Waving fronds. Flapping membranes. Exposed ribs of cartilage.
The beast is dead.
So why does it move? Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2015, Day 1
Once upon a time, there lived a king in a marble tower. Around the tower there lay a city, and around the city there lay a wilderness, which the king tended as though it were a garden. No beasts stalked its hills, and no brigands lurked beside its roads, though the king’s domain stretched on for many miles and the members of his watch were few.
One evening, a sorcerer passing through these wild lands stopped to seek shelter in the tower. In exchange for a meal and a night’s rest, the sorcerer offered the king an enchanted rose: one that would never wither, and would never lose its scent.
But the king had many roses. Beyond the walls of his city, they sprang from the ground like wheat, and his tower was never without them. It was customary for his subjects to leave roses as gifts, the king explained, but surely a powerful sorcerer—a noble visitor from a foreign land—could afford to leave a more substantial offering?
A dark look passed over the face of the sorcerer, but still he conceded that the king’s words were true. “Bring me milk and honey, and a single pearl,” said the sorcerer, “and I shall conjure a gift like none that you have seen.” Continue reading
You might recall The Dungeon Lord–aka. “Girth Loinhammer”–from some of my flash fiction stories earlier this year. More specifically, he featured in the Black Throne series: Before the Black Throne, Rebranding the Black Throne, and Black Throne White Noise. Well, he’s back again, this time with his own blog all to himself. He’s even got his own twitter account. The thing is, even though this is a reboot of sorts, he’s still dealing with the same old problem.
While good old Girth just wants to run a nice respectable dungeon–torturing heroes, stealing their gold, all that honest dungeoning stuff–a lot of the people who’ve been turning up recently have some very strange ideas about what kind of dungeon he’s running. It’s starting to look like his whips and chains and black leather armour are giving the wrong impression entirely, and this makes him very, very uncomfortable. Long story short, he’s fed up with the situation, but he’s out of ideas as to how to fix it.
This is where you come in. Leave a comment over on Beyond the Black Throne, or shoot @BlackThroneNews a message on twitter, and give the Dungeon Lord a suggestion as to what he should do next. Your feedback will dictate the course of his story! But naturally this is a big problem, and he’ll need lots of advice, so be sure to share the site with any friends you think could help (or, failing that, anybody you think could get a laugh out of the situation).
Where this goes next is up to you!
Flash Fiction Month 2014, Day 13
In a time before coal or steam, when magic moved the tide and turned the heavens, there was a golden tree, guarded by an angel with a sword of fire. No ordinary tree was this, for it had sprouted from a pip spat by a god. Upon the tree grew a single emerald apple, and whosoever ate this apple would gain eternal life: this was why the angel was set out to guard it, for the gods are jealous, and will not suffer any man to have eternal life.
But as gods are jealous, so is man ambitious, and many heroes came to try and take the apple for themselves. One such hero was the bronze knight, and the angel saw well his burnished armour as he crested the first hill. Seeing this, the angel took up his bow and loosed a volley of arrows, each one tipped with serpents’ teeth. But the knight was unharmed, for his armour was Virtue, which serves well any who choose to wear it.
As the knight crested the second hill, the angel took up his javelins and hurled them out across the land, each glinting in the sun. These were tipped with dragons’ claws, but still the knight was unharmed: he lifted his shield, which was Hope, and shelters any who can hold it.
As the knight crested the third hill—the hill of the golden tree—the angel took up his sword of fire. The knight dismounted, and honoured battle began. The duel was fierce, and more than once the knight’s shield and armour showed their worth again, but in the end the angel had to yield, for the sword of the knight was Time, and eventually all fall before it.
“Alas,” said the angel, “I am vanquished.” He plucked the emerald apple from the tree and presented it to the bronze knight, though not before licking it thoroughly all over.
The knight made no move to take the apple.
“What’s wrong?” asked the angel. “Do you not wish to claim your spoils?”
“You are not gracious in defeat,” said the knight, and he got back on his horse and rode away across the hills.
And the moral of the story is: angels can be jerks too.
Flash Fiction Month 2014, Day 11
Once upon a time there was a thief named Rashid. At first he found great wealth and had many wondrous adventures, but as his fame spread people began to grow wise to his tricks, and Rashid grew hungry. One day, having not eaten anything for a considerable time, he did something he had wanted never to do: he crept inside the great burial mound that lay not far out of town, and which all knew to be cursed.
Within the mound, which was ringed round by standing stones, Rashid found vast piles of treasure. The thief needed no torch to see the riches he had discovered, for the quantity of gold there was so great, its lustre so brilliant, that it gave off its own light. However, though hungry, Rashid was not foolish. He took only a single golden cup, that surely could not be missed. And so Rashid stole quietly away, and neither wraith nor fiend nor devil pursued him from that place.
First, Rashid took the golden cup to the jeweller. “Look at this fine cup I found in the desert,” he said, presenting it to her. “Surely you can appreciate its worth.”
“Indeed I can,” said the jeweller, “and I would pay handsomely, had it been brought to me by anyone but a thief.”
Second, Rashid took the golden cup to the merchant. “Look at this fine cup,” he exclaimed. “A djinn appeared from the ground and presented it to me, but I would much rather have some bread. Perhaps you would like to trade?”
But “No no no,” said the merchant, mopping his brow. “You are a thief, Rashid. A thief and a trickster. If this cup is not stolen, it is cursed.”
Finally, Rashid took the golden cup to the king. “Eminent Highness,” he said, bowing, “I…”
“Leave my palace or I will have you thrown in jail,” said the king.
And so Rashid beat a hasty retreat.
But the true danger was already upon him, for as night fell, a great dragon awoke within the mound. Knowing that some small part of its hoard was missing, and catching the scent of man about the place, it flew screeching for the city lights on the horizon.
The dragon flew above the houses, raking their roofs with its vicious claws and spewing flame down into the streets. “Bring to me my treasure before the sun rises,” it cried, “or I shall burn this city down!”
As soon as they heard this, the jeweller and the merchant and the king all realised what had happened, and before long everybody was tearing through the streets with torches and spears, desperately seeking Rashid.
But no sooner than he had been driven from the palace, Rashid had gone back to the jewellers shop and—having let himself in—begun to melt down the golden cup. The cup was trouble, that was plain enough. But surely no shopkeeper could find fault with a few shapeless blobs of gold.
However, though the golden cup was small and unassuming, it held a secret unmatched by any other treasure of that desert mound. As the final remnants of the drinking vessel’s form melted in the crucible, a face appeared in the molten metal.
“Thank you, kind stranger!” said the face, with a peculiar golden voice. “Thank you for freeing me from the chalice!”
Rashid stumbled away from the fire. “Who are you?”
“I was once a hero,” explained the face of gold, “sworn to defeat the dark priest who dwelled within the halls of the dead. But I was found wanting: he cast a spell upon me, and for a thousand years I have remained sealed in that cup.”
At that moment the jeweller burst in, for she had realised at last what Rashid must have done. “There you are!” She slapped Rashid soundly. “A terrible dragon sits atop the palace and has threatened all kinds of things, should its cup not be returned before a new sun rises.”
“That is no dragon!” exclaimed the hero in the gold. “Long have I watched with emerald eyes: that is a noble princess, who was also cursed. Always is she doomed to watch over the dark priest’s hoard, for if it should be divided from her when the sun rises, she shall surely die.”
This, the jeweller thought, was even worse than the city being razed, since the princess was blameless. She turned to Rashid. “See what your thieving ways have done?” And she slapped him again for good measure.
But Rashid’s thieving ways were not all bad, for he had cunning. “Wait!” he shouted. “Bid the townspeople bring the whole hoard here, to your shop. I see a way that all can be resolved.”
So, after some coaxing, the jeweller did this. And after more coaxing, the king agreed. A great procession filed forth from the city, and before even the faintest touch of dawn had lit the sky, every treasure of the mound was gathered in the jeweller’s shop.
“Now,” said Rashid, “The hoard is with the dragon, and the dragon with the hoard, and this is good.”
This time, it was the king’s turn to slap Rashid. “Is this dragon to perch atop my palace forever?” he cried. “This is not good at all!”
But Rashid was more cunning still. He bade the jeweller make a vast and wondrous mould, and pour into it all the melted gold of the dark priest’s hoard. And when this was done, all the people of the town saw at last what Rashid had devised. Because what emerged from that clay form was no mere trinket, but a hero’s body all of gold, as well proportioned as any statue, and as intricate as any clockwork.
And so both the dragon and the golden man were free from the necropolis at last. Though each is bound to the other’s company, neither much minds. And neither do the jeweller and Rashid, who were wed not a week later.