Tag: stories

Azar at the Fair

Azar set Kleitos Leonidas’ water – with its precise double helix of lemon and orange peel twined around four cubes of ice – on the small table between their two chaises. “I gotta say, boss, this is a great place.” He clambered into his own chair with an umbrella-topped Mai Tai. “I thought we were going to blow this Popsicle stand as soon as you nabbed me back from Moru, and good riddance. But,” he ratcheted the chaise back a notch and spread stick-like arms to soak up the August heat, “a body could get used to this. I almost feel dried out again.”

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Anduin Wrynn’s breath steamed from cold and exertion as he crested the steep road climbing from the valleys of Dun Morogh to Ironforge. The pair of adventurers he had wheedled into accompanying him from Stormwind balked at leaving the cloaked and incognito young prince at the base of the mountain, but he promised to reveal himself to the nearest guard if anything went amiss and sent them on their uneasy way.

He drew a few curious glances as he bent down at regular intervals, poking holes in the snow with a stick and dropping in small objects before smoothing them back over, but no one stopped him or asked what he was doing. This was not Stormwind. Dun Morogh hadn’t escaped wholly unscathed from the elemental Cataclysm, true, but Deathwing had not scarred their citadel and orcs were not burning Kharanos. There was still some small room for innocence, so he planted his seeds unmolested.

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Woods Woman, Part II

“Snow White.” The syllables spun forth from the king’s lips and onto her shoulders like an unwanted mantle as he stepped from his sleigh. Well, she wouldn’t have to wear it long. Regicide was a capital crime in the realm; if she were taken she could expect little more of her brief free life than a few weeks in chains and the executioner’s axe. “So this is how it ends.”

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Woods Woman, Part I

The woods woman hated winter. Game was scarce and shy. Chill winds skittered beneath the door and seeped between the windowpanes. And though she cherished her solitude, weeks cooped up in a tiny cottage as blizzard after blizzard howled outside could drive anyone a little around the bend.

There was another reason she despised the season, buried so deep in her psyche she scarcely thought about it anymore. Three drops of blood fallen in the snow and a mother’s heartfelt wish. Would that my little daughter may be as white as that snow, as red as the blood, and as black as the ebony window-frame!

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Reflections, Part III

The morning after his courting of Sylvie, Kleitos Leonidas rose before dawn began to pink the eastern sky, turned off the lights she habitually left blazing all night to annoy her neighbors and threaded his way through the oaks to the lake’s edge. The moon had gone down some hours before and had anyone been up to observe they might have wondered how he managed to move so easily by only the weak illumination of the stars.

He tamped tobacco into his pipe, lit it, and stood gazing into the water for some minutes. During the night frost had crept from the shore to the lake shallows, and the same observer might wonder how Kleitos could stand unmoving, barefoot and bare-chested, apparently unperturbed by the chill morning air. Because of course in this world of science and reason, there are no such things as magicians or merfolk. Or other older, darker beings.

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Wild Hunt, Part III

The brindle had been living alone with the Adam-children for six months when the fox hunters came. The Odin-daughter had passed on five seasons before and the Odin-son, lasting far longer than Cu Fail prophesied, three full seasons after that. He had warned the brindle of the Wild Hunt’s coming, but she had seen no sign of a dog matching the Odin-son’s description of Cu Fail nor a change in the Adam-children’s fortunes. Being a dog who prided herself on living in the present, she went about her daily routine of snoozing and eating, taking nice walks and chasing small animals, and thought no more about the Hunt.

That changed the day the Adam-daughter found the fox hunters outside the door. Though the brindle was more proficient at the various communication media of the Adam children, her command of sign was passable enough that she recognized the newcomers desired to speak with her urgently. So after the Adam-son – whom she often thought of as the Headmaster – finished tying them to the hot tub lid’s lift bar she barked until he let her outside.

Alert! they cried aloud as she jumped down the steps. Danger! Warning! Alert!

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Reflections, Part II

Sylvie should have been terrified at a strange man strolling uninvited into her house. But since she moved she’d suffered a scourge of frogs and a storm of owls, and he was handsome, and smiling in a manner a touch haughty but not at all malicious, and she found it hard to believe that a robber or rapist would arrive bearing a bottle of Red Car Pinot Noir from the magical vintage of 1997. He set the wine down on her white marble island and held out his hand. “Kleitos Leonidas.”

It felt strong and rough and dry as sandpaper as she took it in her own. A working man’s hands, although nothing else about him – jacket and trousers too exquisitely tailored to be anything but bespoke, Italian calf leather boots, the wood and bergamot scent of Clive Christian cologne – breathed of manual labor. (Yes breathe. And let go of his hand). “How very…Greek. Does it mean something?”

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Wild Hunt, Part II

Although she could no longer hear the Adam-daughter’s movements, the old black dog knew by instinct and subtle vibrations that she had risen in the early morning light. The Adam-daughter looked puzzled and tilted her head in the manner humans adopted for their ineffectual ears as she walked down the hallway toward the living room muttering something about the weather.

The old dog lay gathering her strength for a moment before standing, a matter complicated by the unexpected presence of Odin-son in her bed. The beginnings of a growl had rumbled in her throat and then subsided as he left his nest of towels and climbed in beside her in the waning hours of the night. The illness that chewed at his brain ravaged his fur as well, exposing patches of pink, fragile skin; the stove fire had died hours before and the house was cold. It would require effort to evict him and in truth he brought some small warmth of his own, so she let him remain.

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Reflections, Part I

Sylvie poured Kat more chardonnay and resumed her casual lean on the wrought iron fence rail. The lake – Sylvie’s lake now – stretched out before them, dark and still except for the glittering, gaudy reflection of the house – Sylvie’s house – in the water. Shortly after Kat arrived from Studio City Sylvie had stilled the buzzing water pump that kept the small lake full. Left to its own devices the lake – an oversized pond, really – would naturally evaporate over the course of the hot summer. Now only a symphony of frogs burbled and boomed around them. “Go on,” Sylvie said. “Tell me this isn’t perfect.”

“You have owl shit on your patio.” Kat grinned as Sylvie bristled. “But aside from that, yes, it’s pretty perfect.”

“I made that owl a star.” Sylvie waved her glass at the old oak to their left. Its gnarled, illuminated arms reached into the darkness, fingers cradling the resident birds and squirrels in what remained of the night. “And this is the thanks I get.”

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The Old West Brick Road

Lee lost Faith the moment she touched her open-toed shoe to the Old West Brick Road. A gibbering fit, a stranger in a sedan. Witnesses saw her run into the Eldridge but she never came out. Not in an hour, a day, a week.

In rare moments of honesty he admitted he lost her before that. When Faith closed her eyes as the shuttle pulled away from the airport he told himself she was tired from the flight. She never traveled well, suffered odd phobias and made peculiar demands. But her eyes remained resolutely closed even after the van stopped at the Oread and the driver swung open the door to wet summer heat wilting clothes and hair and spirit. Lee nudged her shoulder. “We’ve arrived, dear.”

She blinked and stared at the driver’s extended hand as if it were a wolf’s jaws. “The Oread is all new, isn’t it?”

“Yes ma’am.” The driver waited with the serenity of a small town man, places to be but no particular time to be there. “Just opened a few years back.”

“No salvaged cornerstones?” Her fingers wavered just out of his reach. “No antique beds or old portraits?”

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He has no name and no past. This is not a cheap device to build unearned narrative tension, but a literal and genuine truth. Intoxicated by the beckoning brightness of ceanothus and daylilies he has drifted from his fellows and their afternoon ritual and is now irremediably lost. He may experience a vague unease or he may not notice it at all.

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Happier Times

Stocking feet hushed against marble and the gun a cool weight in his pocket, Anton crept down the hall, indistinct thumps and shuffles meeting his ears as he approached the study. The heavy door opened a bare inch at a time on its silent, oiled hinges, releasing a puzzling blast of toluene. He put his eye to the crack and stifled a gasp at the sight of Cletus surrounded by the detritus of Anton’s library.

Shredded paper drifted across the floor like snow and ash. Cletus’ face lit up in childish delight as a manicured fingernail scratched across the fading mottled cover of Ekins’ Loves of Medea and Jason, a deep gouge forming in its wake. One brawny, bronze hand slapped the book open with a sickening crack across the spine, and the other wiggled a path across rows of garish nail polish. It settled on a fluorescent pink.

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