Prose-ject 2020 21: A Delicious Dish

Couples as my submission for Flash Fiction Fridays Week 3. The prompt used: a delicious dish.

Shade looked at the dish in front of her. It was the most lavish one she had seen in ages; most of her employers did not invite her for dinner, let alone show off their wealth with it when they did. It was clear that this fidgety man was doing his best to show that he was capable of paying the vast sum of money that this hire would cost him.

It was pathetic. Shade knew that no one who could not afford her could reach her; she knew who had the money to pay a hitman, and she knew exactly who had the money to pay a hitman of her level.

However, she did not complain. Instead, she dug in and tasted the fish. Lavish or not, it was surprisingly delicious for what the rich buffoons considered gourmet. Usually, even after years of eating food that prioritized her health above her taste and thus tasted of flour, nothing or cardboard, the expensive gourmet she was served tasted like garbage.

The delicious food did not make the man fidget any less, though. It was clear that he had little idea what he was doing and all the idea of who he was sharing his dinner table with. Shade did not express her emotions about it — it would have been unprofessional. No, dealing with this situation with grace and disinterest would be the best way to deal with any customer in her field, especially since she was less likely to be memorable that way.

Being tasteless like her normal food was being the most invisible in plain sight.

Prose-ject 2020 20: Fugitive?

The prompt used: a tongue sharper than a dagger’s blade.

“Y’know, we’re all ragged. We smell worse than elks and everyone except Evilliam and Lasiaku have darker hair than normally, while only Lasiaku won’t look significantly whiter once we do actually get to wash all this dirt off ourselves,” a female voice said. “And after considerin’ all of this and that I’ve been travelin’ with you folks for two years, I’ll say that this gal we met is lookin’ even worse than us. At least we have the sense to wear shoes in the forest, whatever good these worn-out hole-y pieces of leather do at this point.”
“Very well, you have a point, Natalina,” sighed a familiar male voice. Edicia did not dare to open her eyes, so she just listened to the conversation.
“Is she ill?” asked another male voice.
“Not that I could tell. Exhausted, sure, but not feverish or anythin’,” the female voice answered. “Judgin’ from her clothes, she’s some runaway from a better-off area.”
“Fugitive?” the same unfamiliar male voice asked.
“The hell I would know?” the female voice blurted. “She’s been sleepin’ most of the time she’s been here. We don’t even know her name.”
“If she was a fugitive, enforcers would already be here,” a third male voice chimed in. “A girl like that with gear like that can’t lose the hounds even if she could somehow outrun them, which I doubt.”
“Yeah, and her soles definitely didn’t look like they’d been walkin’ forests long enough to be able to run barefoot,” the female voice noted. “A sheltered runaway from somewhere nearby, I say.”
There was a brief silence before the familiar male voice spoke up again. “We’ll ask her some questions when she is awake. Then we’ll know where we’ll stand with her.”
Edicia tensed at this. In response, yet another new voice spoke up, this time from next to her. “I think she already is.”

Edicia opened her eyes and was met with a rather confusing face. It looked rather feminine, but she could not help noticing the unmistakable stubble on the chin. A hand came on her shoulder to keep her from escaping.
“Let me go,” Edicia said and tried to struggle against it, but the person next to her kept their hold.
“Calm down. We won’t hurt you,” the person said. Their voice was a strange mixture of masculine and feminine.
“Let me go!” Edicia cried out and fought harder. Footsteps came towards her, and just as she managed to break free and sit up, someone got to her back and wrapped their arms around her, pressing her back against someone.

Despite struggling, she could not break free from the rather thin yet strong arms, so she took a look around herself. Three men and one that she could not tell which gender they were.
“Relax, kid. We won’t hurt you,” the female voice said behind her ear. “We don’t want any trouble, so could you please stop fightin’ and answer a few questions?”

Edicia looked at the people around her, helpless. She was definitely getting killed now, regardless of whether she answered the questions or not.

The biggest man, the one she had woken up to before, sat down and gestured the others still standing to do the same. Then he locked his eyes with Edicia’s and asked, “So, who are you?”

Prose-ject 2020 19: Ria’s Limits

The prompt used: Coven Zyra by Millalol.

Ever since we agreed to travel together, Ria used very little hurtful magic — at least when I was looking. I appreciated her choice to use mending magic instead whenever possible, although due its nature and her own inclination to use music and cunning instead of weapons and strengthening spells in combat she had to resort to hurtful spells whenever she had to do damage directly. After the first time, she explained that it was normal among angels who did not carry weapons or specialize in them.

A part of me, however, couldn’t help wondering what her limits with hurtful magic were. It was clear that the only thing limiting her was herself, so I couldn’t help wondering just how far she would go if pushed as far as possible.

One time, when she had made an unusually gross mess of some persistent ghouls who had ambushed us, I asked her about it. She only chuckled nervously and said that she had no idea. She added that she hoped that she would not find out either.

I hoped so too.

But as fate would have it, as my quest for mastering the Harmony Blade progressed, we found ourselves fighting against bigger and bigger monsters. This, in turn, forced Ria to use hurtful magic more and more both to protect herself and to cover me whenever I messed up.

Eventually, we got a largish city which was getting wrecked daily by a gargantuan beast called Harrower. We tracked it back into its lair and attempted to take it out by ambushing it.

The ambush failed. We had to face off Harrower at its sleeping chamber.

And Ria was pushed to the limits of her hurtful magic.

When I was about to get my head bitten off, a dark blast in front of Harrower’s foremost legs tossed us apart. I landed on my back and turned to look at Ria as soon as I had recovered from the blow.

What I saw was a pale-blond-haired fallen angel in the air, black feathered hair jewelry framing the upper half of her face and a black and golden battle dress with wide black feather pauldrons on her. Her eyes were yellow orbs like the full moon a week ago. I didn’t see any other angels around, so I could only think that it was Ria even though she looked so different.
“This ends now!” Ria announced, her voice deeper, darker and more confident than I’d ever heard from her. She spoke an incantation and shot a dark beam at Harrower’s heart.

The beast let out a deafening scream and collapsed as its insides burst into the grossest mess I had seen so far. I turned on my side and gagged at the horrific smell, although I ended up not vomiting.

The clack of hard-soled boots approached me and I looked up. Ria was coming towards me. I took into the sight of her in this… whatever this form was: thigh-high boots, the battle dress and feather pauldrons, arm-length gloves ending with spikes on at the elbows and fabric covering her thighs and forearms. Her earrings and the jewel holding her hair and feather hair jewelry together were golden, set with light orange stones that matched her cold eyes.

I was still as she approached. Her face betrayed no emotion whatsoever. I had no idea what was going on inside her head now.

In all honesty, in that moment I feared her. It felt like she might kill me now, something I had stopped fearing so long ago I had already forgotten the exact time frame.

This was the true power of a powerful fallen angel.

And I had no idea if it was with me or against me.

Prose-ject 2020 18: The Tree on a Desert

The prompt used: The Vision by MaximeDaviron.

After he had finished everything he needed to with his mentor’s estate, Bereth set forth away from the settlement. He knew that since he had taken her ring without her children’s permission or knowledge, he ought to hide it. In addition to that, the ring’s powers, although limited in use cases, were too great to risk getting into the wrong hands. He had to guard it as long and well as he could.

Besides, he wanted to leave anyway. No one could blame him for it, either; everything in the settlement reminded him of her. He needed a change of scenery to let the wounds scab and process his grief to move on.

Plus, he had learned everything he could under her tutelage. There was nothing but him holding him back — it had been that way for long. It was about time he spread his wings and started to make a proper career for himself on his own. He had to learn to stand on his own now.

Perhaps it had been all according to the fate’s plan; he had been too afraid to leave her, so his mentor had died so that he would have to learn to be alone.

As he rode across the desert, shielding himself and his mount from the heat with his magic, he found a strange, lonely tree right in the middle of it. There was no visible water around, but it still stood taller than him and seemed to be alive.
“What’s a tree doing all the way here?” Bereth muttered to himself and dismounted, approaching the tree with caution. There was magic in the air, but it was not hostile at all. Bereth touched the tree’s bark, ready to cast a protection spell if necessary, and felt the power within it. Whatever spell was sustaining the tree, it was incredibly strong.

Even though it was a clear day, the land around him started to get dark. In confusion, he looked up. As his eyes did not find any clouds, he cast a protection spell on his eyes and looked at the sun. Then he saw why it was suddenly dark: an annular solar eclipse was in progress.

He stared at it, surprised that these two experiences happened to him at the same time. The moon eventually moved away, and the desert became scorching once again, but Bereth could not get the sight out of his head. Was this a vision induced by the tree or a strange coincidence?

The tree stood there, unfazed by the incident. It revealed none of its secrets, so Bereth mounted and rode away. Perhaps the settlement on his path could tell him more about this mysterious tree.

Prose-ject 2020 17: Midsummer Lake

The prompt used: Last Week of Summer by NessaJayn.

The Midsummer Lake — it was actually called Deepond, but I’d always called it Midsummer Lake — was right in front of my eyes once again. It had been years since I had last been here; it had been the last Midsummer my father had been alive, when I had been twelve. He had died in the following winter.

It was hard to believe it had been eight years since then, and even harder was to believe that it was a Midsummer again and I was here. Although, the very hardest thing that I had to believe now was that I was here not with a son or daughter of my own but… a companion of sorts. We had been traveling together for some weeks, but I still wasn’t sure what to call her.

Ria had already gone ahead to enjoy the view. The sky was as clear as ever and the water even clearer than in my memories.

It was a lot to take in, being there again after so many years. My grandfather had offered to take me here after my father had died, but I had declined year after year until he, too, had passed away three years ago. After him, there had been no one left to even suggest going there, let alone carrying out a plan for it.

I think the first Midsummer without my father I swore that I’d never come here again because it hurt so much. Because it made me miss him so much more.

Yet here I was.

And my father’s death hurt just as much as on the Midsummer seven years ago.

Before I realized it, I was on my knees, crying my soul out into my palms. I could feel Ria’s hands on my shoulders and hear her voice, a concerned tone muffling out the wind, asking me what was wrong. I could not answer, not yet.

I wasn’t sure if I could ever talk about it.

When I finally ran out of tears, I realized that she was hugging me.
“I don’t know what came into you, but I’m here for you like you’ve been for me,” she told. “Just ask and I’ll help you in any way I can.”
“Th-thank you…” I croaked and tried to clear my voice.
Ria let go and looked into my eyes. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“I…” I looked away; I couldn’t look at her. “I don’t know.”
“It’s ok,” she said. Her voice was softer than I had heard ever before. “I understand.”

I forced myself to look into her eyes. I had trusted her this far and she had not let me down. She had no reason to do so now either, right?

I decided to confide in her. “My father and I used to come here each Midsummer. I… haven’t been here ever since he… he died. Not even though my grandfather offered to take me here each summer until he died too. It’s been years but it still… it still hurts. It hurts so much.”
“I see,” Ria said. “So, that’s why you didn’t want to come here.”
“I’m sorry.” Ria hugged me again. “Losing someone you love hurts, it always does. But the pain loses its sharpness only when it’s faced and dealt with. I’m sure your father and grandfather are both proud of you. You’ve come a long way.”
I nodded and hugged her back. I wanted to believe in her words. “Thank you.”

That day, in the light of the sundown, I taught Ria stone skipping and fishing like my father had done with me. At the same time, she taught me a valuable thing: facing the pain of a loss did make the pain duller.

It was also a joy unlike any other to see her laugh and enjoy herself at the lake, a light in the darkening night that lessened the pain even more.

When I would have a child, I would brave the painful memories and pass on the tradition at the Midsummer Lake to them. That I knew for sure now.

Prose-ject 2020 16: Freedom Underground

The prompt used: “They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!” -Braveheart (quote)

When the warring civilization attacked Earth, many a good person went to war with them, quoting an old movie from the 1990s. They were blinded by their own ideals, their excessive belief in themselves and our war technology despite of Earth being heavily into pacifism and commerce over war and conquering for a couple of centuries.

None of the people I heard going to the war shouting “they may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom” did not return. Their deaths were in vain, a useless sacrifice that only caused grief to their loved ones. Their sacrifice did not do anything to stop the invasion or prevent any attacks on us. It merely thinned our already thinning numbers.

I was grateful for each life that I saved by convincing people not to go into war, and after seeing what had become of those foolhardy ones who refused to listen, many of them came to me to thank me for talking them out of getting themselves killed.

If only the others had listened, too. Then we would have so much more personpower operating and restoring the underwater and underground facilities that we now have to use as sanctuaries. With the flood of people coming to the sanctuaries from all over the planet, we could use every single person capable of working with us to keep us from starving to death under the surface.

I’m most worried about the underwater facilities; as the invasion had kept advancing, many have speculated that we have to either abandon the underground sanctuaries for the underwater ones or permanently flood their surroundings to keep them as sanctuaries — neither of which are good, easy options.

Although, as long as we keep working to live under the circumstances that have been imposed on us, I suppose the old quote is right. They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom as people, no matter where we are.

After all, our neighbors a galaxy away have already proved that it is correct: while they lost their home, they still live as free people on other planets, our Earth included.

When we get through this, we will emerge from the water and the ground as free people. That I am certain of.

Prose-ject 2020 15: Escape Through The Forest

The prompt used: “You had me at ‘hello’.” -Jerry Maguire (quote)

Edicia was not sure whether the hunters she had seen were after her or the deer family she had seen along the way, but she was not taking any chances. She made sure her shoes were secured on her makeshift utility belt and sneaked around the hunters, praying for whatever powers out there not to let their dogs sniff her out. The hard parts of the vegetation and soil alike under the undergrowth hurt her soles as splinters and cuts came on them. Despite of the pain, she pressed her lips together and hurried away; if she got caught, she would be in for far, far more pain.

Once the hunters’ voices died out, Edicia merely pressed forward, determined to cover as much distance as possible. Eventually, her mind focused only on walking ahead, a mental tunnel vision taking over her. The longer she walked, the better for her.

At some point, she stumbled over some roots and found herself at a clearing. She noticed to her horror that she was alone there. A ragged group of people, camped at the clearing, turned to look at her.

She was a goner.
“H-hello,” Edicia whimpered, trying to come up with an excuse to get away from this group. Yet one of them, a man two heads taller than her with broad shoulders and a heavy build that would have no problem crushing her if necessary, stood up and started to walk towards her.

The exhaustion was already setting itself in deep within Edicia now that she had had to stop walking. There was no way she could escape this group, especially not now.

Her body gave her no other choice than just collapsing on the ground.

When she came to, she was lying on a thin mattress, covered by an even thinner blanket. Everything hurt less now, though, and she could have sworn that she felt bandages covering her feet, legs and arms around the cuts she had gotten while walking through the forest.

Even though she wanted to stay on the bed, she needed to find out what was going on and where she was, so she tried to sit up. A strong hand came on her shoulder and pressed her back against the mattress. Edicia turned to look at the hand’s owner and saw that it was the same man from the group. Panic settled back in.
“I-I…” Edicia stuttered. She still did not know what she should say to get away from this.
“Easy now,” the man said, his baritone voice soft. He gave a small smile to the girl. “You had me at ‘hello’. We won’t hurt you.” He took his hand off her shoulder. “You need to rest. I don’t know where you came from or why you were stumbling in the forest barefoot when you have shoes with you, but you’re safe with us. So get some rest, okay?”
Edicia tried to find any sort of deception from the man’s face and eyes, but they betrayed no ill intent. She probably did not have any choice but going along with the story anyway. “Okay.”
“Good,” the man said. He turned to look away and called out, “Natalina.”
Footsteps came to them and a female voice asked, “Yeah?”
“The girl has woken up,” the man told. “I think you’ll frighten her less than me.”
“Probably,” the female voice remarked. “The others actually need your input with where we’ll head next, so go talk with ’em. I’ll look after her.”
“Thank you.” The man stood up and walked away, while a woman sat down at his spot. Edicia looked at her and tried to memorize her face, but she could only remember her messy dark brown hair.
“Just sleep, ‘K, kid? You look pretty ragged, and that’s coming from me,” the woman flicked her hair to showcase her tangled hair. “Haven’t washed this in weeks, so it has gone like eight shades darker from all the dirt.”
Edicia nodded. She did not have any other choice anyway.

Therefore, she closed her eyes and let the sleep come. Whatever happened to her now was beyond her.

Prose-ject 2020 14: Gratefully Prosperous

The prompt used: the warm thrill of prosperity.

Friat looked at the city around the castle from one of the castle balconies. The city was peaceful, yet each time she looked at it, she reminded herself that she had been fortunate to become an apprentice to one of the court sorcerers, Ezidretim. She still remembered the first months at the castle, learning to know its layout, staff and even the royal family; the warm thrill of prosperity was impossible to forget.

As she had grown up — and as part of her training — she had learned to be grateful for her good fortune. Ezidretim had instilled his daily gratitude ritual in her during the years, like his mentor had done to him when he had been an apprentice. Friat was planning to continue the tradition when she would take on an apprentice herself, whoever it would end up being. A part of her wished that the apprentice would be someone from the less affluent areas of the city like her so that they, too, could better help the poor with their sorceries.

That time was still far away, though. Friat was still young and the crown prince, hardly an adult to begin with yet, had yet to take the throne after his father. Heck, the prince did not even have anyone to marry yet! Not that she could blame him; the guards shadowed him everywhere outside of the castle grounds, so it was close to an impossibility to become friends, let alone lovers, with someone outside of the castle and the people in the castle were like family to him, too close to be married.

Friat smiled to herself. If the prince found someone for himself, she would have to go and look for an apprentice whose heart burned with fire just like hers, lest she wish to be second to him.

Before that, however, she still had learning trips to the Dragon Peaks to make with Ezidretim and a final sorcery exam to pass once Ezidretim would deem her ready.

She could hardly wait to see the mother dragons again.

Prose-ject 2020 13: Dreams of a Mirror Slab

The prompt used: [EVERYDAYS 241 / MAY FLOWERS] by LeJitLeJit.

The first nights she spent at the sanatorium, Louise dreamed of a shattered mirror slab held together with magic. She did not recognize the flower field it was at — of course she did not, she had amnesia — but something in it seemed familiar.

She must have been there at some point in her life. She was sure of it. However, with nothing to indicate where that field could be, it did not help her recover a bit of her memories or information about who she was and where she was.

As the nights went on and the dreams of that slab faded away, Louise grew more desperate, thirstier for answers. Yet all the answers were out of her reach, either locked away in her head or impossible to connect to her with the lack of information. The sanatorium staff knew nothing of her; she had merely been transferred there from a hospital without a paper trail to follow — a common practice, apparently, for people who were deemed too sick to recover to the point of returning to normal life. The sanatorium, located deep in the countryside, was meant to be a place where people were sent to die peacefully.

Louise could not help feeling that someone wanted her either to disappear to be hidden from someone or something. It was frustrating nevertheless, and she yearned for an escape from the closed facility. She did not want to be one of those who were nursed till death, hidden from the world around the sanatorium.

Whatever it would take, Louise swore to escape and find out who she was.

Prose-ject 2020 12: Escape Preparation

The prompt used: escaping the scene.

Anxious, Sash looked over his shoulder as Edicia told the rest of the group about the specter which had attacked her. While the others tried to cut her off with questions, she cut them off with an authoritative voice they had never heard from the young woman.
“They always come in groups. The one that attacked me was a scout that got cocky. It’s going to give our position to the rest as soon as it reaches them, and by the time they get here, we have to be far away,” Edicia explained. “I’m sorry, but we have to pack our things immediately and run.”
“Are you sure about this?” Lasiaku asked, confused. He had had a bad feeling about things lately, but this seemed worse than he had expected.
“Absolutely sure,” Edicia answered, her face solemn but certain.
Lasiaku nodded, still confused by the sudden incident. Nevertheless, he decided to trust the girl. “Very well. Everyone, pack your stuff! We’re leaving right away!”

As everyone scattered, he turned to Edicia once more. “Any chance you know a safe haven from those things?”
“We’d have to go over the kingdom border to escape them for good,” Edicia told.
“That’s further than I hoped.” Lasiaku scratched his chin. “Well, let’s head there. If they won’t cross the border, we can regroup at the bordering city and figure out our next move. You have a lot to explain once we get there, though. Everyone wants answers.”
“I know,” Edicia said. “Whatever questions you have, I will answer them there.”
“Good.” Lasiaku nodded. “Let’s go then.”

The two joined their fellows at packing, each of them pulling their weight. The sooner they escaped the scene, the better chances they had to outrun the specters.