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Written by Harry_Situation in portal Fiction

The Old Master Part 5

The wrethkar herd continued their free roam in the ravine. Wandering amongst the herd was Legion, the great demon sorcerer, who searched for a flower, the Deathly Bloom, that would be suitable for Rosemary's upcoming presentation for her class. And where was Rosemary Gravely? She sat away from the old demon an a small boulder pile, no longer interested in her project but more so on the gentle herd that allowed the two of them to roam with. She sketched out drawings of a few of the beasts in her notepad. She drew in detail of each spike and scale of the young and the old. She even drew Legion guiding the herd like a old shepherd, which made her smile even more.

Suddenly she felt a tug on the back of her hoodie. She turned and saw an infant wrethkar gnawing at the cloth. It was the same baby that Legion helped birth. The newborn released her and gave a small squeak, then jumped down from the boulder pile. It was born not that long, perhaps only an hour or two, yet it was already walking and running at an accelerated rate. With every couple feet it ran it would always look back at Rosemary, coaxing her attention. 

"Oh, you want to play?" Rosie giggled. She could resist its temptations. Jumping down from the pile, Rosemary pursued the swift infant. It ran farther and farther from the human girl that she could barely keep up. She soon chased the newborn down the ravine which led them to a canyon. The infant cut through a rocky corner and disappeared. Right then she heard frantic squeals of the infant. 

"Oy! Snagged another one!" A grizzled voice cried out.

Rosemary darted for the large rock and crouched down. She poked her head from behind the large rock and saw three demons, that she has never met until now, gathered around a small campsite and safeguarded a set of large, wooden crates. One demon appeared like a muscled skeleton, much like Ghuul, but the horns on his head were longer like a gazelle. The second demon was much thinner and shorter than his comrades, with his appearance head and legs appearing rather goat like. The third demon was much more sinister looking than the others, with his muscular appearance much like a cross between a human and a lizard, complete with flaky scales, a short tail that swung behind, and his left eye so scarred up he couldn't open it.

"Remind me again why we're snatchin' up these babies." The skinny goat-demon whined. "Why can't we hunt down the bigger ones?"

"Their hides are only soft like this until they get bigger." Their horned leader explained. "Good for makin' some smooth leather, and worth quite a fortune to the right buyers. I gots me a flyboy in the heavens whose looking to buy off on some of their skins."

"Oh I can't wait to tell me brother." The skinny goat-demon giddied. "He's gonna be jelly of me when I come back stupid rich."

"You best keep your gob shut less you don't wanna loose your head!" The scarred lizard-demon warned his eager partner. "If any higher demons finds out what we've been up to it'll be our hides that's skinned."

Rosemary grew angry of what these demons were planning. She knew she had to get them out of that crate. As the demons talked among themselves of how their profits would be split, Rosie sneaked quietly to the great. The closer she drew she heard the desperate pleas of the baby wrethkars inside the crate. She reached for the lock and tugged with all her might, but the lock wouldn't budge. 

Suddenly she felt something yank at her hood and hoisted her off the ground. She could help but let out a small yelp from the hoisting. Off the ground she dangled in the hand of the scarred demon, who barred his sharp teeth at her.

"Looks like we've got ourselves a spy in our mist, boys!" The scarred lizard-demon hissed to his comrades.

The other two demons gather around the two. They watched how Rosemary kicked about in the air and her small naval was exposed from her hoodie and shirt being held up. 

"What is it?" The skinny goat-demon asked.

"Looks like a soul." The horned leader commented.

The scarred lizard-demon took a couple sniffs at Rosemary and hissed once more, "Don't reek like one. Too fleshy and clothed to be a soul." 

"I'm a girl, you jerks!" Rosie retorted. "And you better let these baby wrethkars go!

"Or what?" The horned leader jeered.

"Or I'll tell my stepfather!" She warned. "May have heard of him. He's the devil, sometimes referred as the boss."

All three of the demons gulped at the mention of her stepfather. Small sweat beads dripped down from their monstrous heads.

"She's the boss's brat!?" The skinny goat-demon squeaked. 

"No she ain't!" The horned leader denied. "She's a liar!"

"Hey, what if she's telling the truth?" The skinny one asked. "What if we're ratted straight to the devil?"

"She's a kid. Kids always tell lies to get outta trouble." The lizard-demon spat. He then drew a large bowie knife from his belt and raised up to the girl's chin, to which she gasped at its sharpness. "Kids also know how to keep their mouths shut or risk their tongues cut out if she spills to anyone."

"And what of me?" A familiar voice bellowed nearby. "What is my punishment for knowing?"

All four looked to the path and saw the great demon sorcerer supreme himself lingering down their way. His old staff tapped the ground with each slow step. Each pair of spider like eyes glared to each of the poaching demons. The horned leader and skinny goat-demon pulled out their machetes from the sheaves of their pants and readied themselves.

"Oy! That there's Legion, the royal adviser." The skinny goat-demon gasped. "Kid was speakin' the truth!"

"This ain't your concern, old timer." The scarred lizard-demon hissed.

"You are trespassing on ground you do not belong in," The old arachnid said. "You are holding my assistant hostage and are threatening her life, and you have a few infant wrethkars boxed up with intentions to craft their hides into leather and sell it to the black market, an act to which I myself established a ban all across the depths of Hell. I would say that this indeed is now my concern. I am will grant each of you mercy and pardon your crimes if you do the following: release the wrethkars, apologize to the girl, leave this place, abnegate your professions, and never return.""

"Gut this old wizard!" The horned leader ordered.

The scarred lizard-demon dropped Rosie onto the ground and charged forward with the skinny goat-demon following suit. Legion spun his staff around and struck it against their heads. The skinny goat-demon took few more strikes against his body before being sent flying to the canyon wall by a final blow. The scarred-lizard demon tried to blast Legion with a couple fireballs, but, without a single glance, the sorcerer dissolved them with his hand. A purple glow emitted from the arachnid's hand followed by a great gust of wind, which blasted the scarred attacker into the canyon wall as well. 

The horned leader charged forward only to drop to his knees when Legion's staff jabbed him below his belt. A hard strike across his head knocked him on his back, which forced the demon to groan loudly from his pain. He then gagged when the wooden staff pressed down on his throat with the sorcerer standing above him.

"My offer still stands." Legion reminded them.

After their humiliating defeat at the hands of the old demon, the poachers did exactly as he instructed. They dropped their weapons, unlocked the crate of baby wrethkars, to which the babies scampered back to the herd. The poachers then followed up with a short apology to Rosemary, who mockingly smiled and laughed as they all ran out of the canyon, screaming like scared girls. Legion raised his left hand, which emitted a hazy green glow. Sprouting from the tainted ground were large roots that coiled around the crates, crushing them down into tiny splinters, so they can never be used again. 

Legion then looked on to Rosemary and said. "For one so small you seem to constantly find yourself in big trouble." 

"It's a bad habit." Rosie jested. "What about you? I thought you were against violence."

"I am. But I am for self defense."

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Written by Harry_Situation in portal Fiction
The Old Master Part 5
The wrethkar herd continued their free roam in the ravine. Wandering amongst the herd was Legion, the great demon sorcerer, who searched for a flower, the Deathly Bloom, that would be suitable for Rosemary's upcoming presentation for her class. And where was Rosemary Gravely? She sat away from the old demon an a small boulder pile, no longer interested in her project but more so on the gentle herd that allowed the two of them to roam with. She sketched out drawings of a few of the beasts in her notepad. She drew in detail of each spike and scale of the young and the old. She even drew Legion guiding the herd like a old shepherd, which made her smile even more.

Suddenly she felt a tug on the back of her hoodie. She turned and saw an infant wrethkar gnawing at the cloth. It was the same baby that Legion helped birth. The newborn released her and gave a small squeak, then jumped down from the boulder pile. It was born not that long, perhaps only an hour or two, yet it was already walking and running at an accelerated rate. With every couple feet it ran it would always look back at Rosemary, coaxing her attention. 

"Oh, you want to play?" Rosie giggled. She could resist its temptations. Jumping down from the pile, Rosemary pursued the swift infant. It ran farther and farther from the human girl that she could barely keep up. She soon chased the newborn down the ravine which led them to a canyon. The infant cut through a rocky corner and disappeared. Right then she heard frantic squeals of the infant. 

"Oy! Snagged another one!" A grizzled voice cried out.

Rosemary darted for the large rock and crouched down. She poked her head from behind the large rock and saw three demons, that she has never met until now, gathered around a small campsite and safeguarded a set of large, wooden crates. One demon appeared like a muscled skeleton, much like Ghuul, but the horns on his head were longer like a gazelle. The second demon was much thinner and shorter than his comrades, with his appearance head and legs appearing rather goat like. The third demon was much more sinister looking than the others, with his muscular appearance much like a cross between a human and a lizard, complete with flaky scales, a short tail that swung behind, and his left eye so scarred up he couldn't open it.

"Remind me again why we're snatchin' up these babies." The skinny goat-demon whined. "Why can't we hunt down the bigger ones?"

"Their hides are only soft like this until they get bigger." Their horned leader explained. "Good for makin' some smooth leather, and worth quite a fortune to the right buyers. I gots me a flyboy in the heavens whose looking to buy off on some of their skins."

"Oh I can't wait to tell me brother." The skinny goat-demon giddied. "He's gonna be jelly of me when I come back stupid rich."

"You best keep your gob shut less you don't wanna loose your head!" The scarred lizard-demon warned his eager partner. "If any higher demons finds out what we've been up to it'll be our hides that's skinned."

Rosemary grew angry of what these demons were planning. She knew she had to get them out of that crate. As the demons talked among themselves of how their profits would be split, Rosie sneaked quietly to the great. The closer she drew she heard the desperate pleas of the baby wrethkars inside the crate. She reached for the lock and tugged with all her might, but the lock wouldn't budge. 

Suddenly she felt something yank at her hood and hoisted her off the ground. She could help but let out a small yelp from the hoisting. Off the ground she dangled in the hand of the scarred demon, who barred his sharp teeth at her.

"Looks like we've got ourselves a spy in our mist, boys!" The scarred lizard-demon hissed to his comrades.

The other two demons gather around the two. They watched how Rosemary kicked about in the air and her small naval was exposed from her hoodie and shirt being held up. 

"What is it?" The skinny goat-demon asked.

"Looks like a soul." The horned leader commented.

The scarred lizard-demon took a couple sniffs at Rosemary and hissed once more, "Don't reek like one. Too fleshy and clothed to be a soul." 

"I'm a girl, you jerks!" Rosie retorted. "And you better let these baby wrethkars go!

"Or what?" The horned leader jeered.

"Or I'll tell my stepfather!" She warned. "May have heard of him. He's the devil, sometimes referred as the boss."

All three of the demons gulped at the mention of her stepfather. Small sweat beads dripped down from their monstrous heads.

"She's the boss's brat!?" The skinny goat-demon squeaked. 

"No she ain't!" The horned leader denied. "She's a liar!"

"Hey, what if she's telling the truth?" The skinny one asked. "What if we're ratted straight to the devil?"

"She's a kid. Kids always tell lies to get outta trouble." The lizard-demon spat. He then drew a large bowie knife from his belt and raised up to the girl's chin, to which she gasped at its sharpness. "Kids also know how to keep their mouths shut or risk their tongues cut out if she spills to anyone."

"And what of me?" A familiar voice bellowed nearby. "What is my punishment for knowing?"

All four looked to the path and saw the great demon sorcerer supreme himself lingering down their way. His old staff tapped the ground with each slow step. Each pair of spider like eyes glared to each of the poaching demons. The horned leader and skinny goat-demon pulled out their machetes from the sheaves of their pants and readied themselves.

"Oy! That there's Legion, the royal adviser." The skinny goat-demon gasped. "Kid was speakin' the truth!"

"This ain't your concern, old timer." The scarred lizard-demon hissed.

"You are trespassing on ground you do not belong in," The old arachnid said. "You are holding my assistant hostage and are threatening her life, and you have a few infant wrethkars boxed up with intentions to craft their hides into leather and sell it to the black market, an act to which I myself established a ban all across the depths of Hell. I would say that this indeed is now my concern. I am will grant each of you mercy and pardon your crimes if you do the following: release the wrethkars, apologize to the girl, leave this place, abnegate your professions, and never return.""

"Gut this old wizard!" The horned leader ordered.

The scarred lizard-demon dropped Rosie onto the ground and charged forward with the skinny goat-demon following suit. Legion spun his staff around and struck it against their heads. The skinny goat-demon took few more strikes against his body before being sent flying to the canyon wall by a final blow. The scarred-lizard demon tried to blast Legion with a couple fireballs, but, without a single glance, the sorcerer dissolved them with his hand. A purple glow emitted from the arachnid's hand followed by a great gust of wind, which blasted the scarred attacker into the canyon wall as well. 

The horned leader charged forward only to drop to his knees when Legion's staff jabbed him below his belt. A hard strike across his head knocked him on his back, which forced the demon to groan loudly from his pain. He then gagged when the wooden staff pressed down on his throat with the sorcerer standing above him.

"My offer still stands." Legion reminded them.

After their humiliating defeat at the hands of the old demon, the poachers did exactly as he instructed. They dropped their weapons, unlocked the crate of baby wrethkars, to which the babies scampered back to the herd. The poachers then followed up with a short apology to Rosemary, who mockingly smiled and laughed as they all ran out of the canyon, screaming like scared girls. Legion raised his left hand, which emitted a hazy green glow. Sprouting from the tainted ground were large roots that coiled around the crates, crushing them down into tiny splinters, so they can never be used again. 

Legion then looked on to Rosemary and said. "For one so small you seem to constantly find yourself in big trouble." 

"It's a bad habit." Rosie jested. "What about you? I thought you were against violence."

"I am. But I am for self defense."
#fantasy  #fiction  #horror  #comedy  #sinsofthefather 
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Part 6 Final scene! It seems we have come to the end of the road....however, if enough show interest I will continue...so keep that in mind when you are writing the gripping end! I would like to feel the gamut of emotion in this write. Make me laugh, and cry and get angry all in the last few paragraphs. Thank you all for participating! This has been great fun! It's been so fun...you get 400 words to wow me in your ending! One stipulation...that is also the minimum word limit as well!
Written by Jasper in portal Fiction

Bewitching Hour Part VI

Escaping through a window was her only chance. As quickly as possible she navigated past the blood without slipping and made it back around the corner. She sprinted down the hallway to the largest windows in the apartment, the floor-length ones that opened onto the Juliet balcony overlooking the courtyard.

She came to a skidding halt and reached down to pull on the brass foot bolt at the bottom of the window. It came unlocked with a loud clunk. Pausing for a moment, she strained her ears to listen for sounds of movement, wondering where her other friends’ bodies might be. Tears rolled gently down her face but she remained steady.

The apartment was silent. Relief flickered across her mind but just as she switched the deadbolt above the handle, she heard something. A low scuffling noise as if someone was dragging a limp leg came from the kitchen.

Panicked and her palm moist from sweat, she gripped the handle futilely several times. She wiped her hands on the front of her shirt and tried the door again. It opened stiffly as she quickly glanced toward the kitchen. There was no sight of Warren but she instantly felt eyes on her from the opposite direction. Reluctantly, with a deep breath, she turned her head slightly to peer toward her right.

Her two friends Miles and Dani staggered toward her from the bedroom. Their lifeless faces were blanketed in the blood that had poured from the now clotted gashes across their throats. Without hesitating she leaped onto the narrow balcony, clamored over the railing, and started climbing down the other side. It creaked under her weight in the brisk dawn air as she frantically looked around for something else to grab onto.

Suddenly, an icy hand grasped her white-knuckles that were clenched around the iron rail. She looked up into Dani’s once sweet, joyful face. Horrified, she tried to pry free but its nails dug into her skin. With a yelp, she let go. 

The last thing she saw was the lightening sky and the eyes of her dead friends watching her fall onto the spikes of the garden fence below. The rusty metal pierced her three times in the back and twice in the thigh, holding her there for several hours until her neighbor went for a morning run.

If only they hadn’t played with the Ouija board last night.

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Part 6 Final scene! It seems we have come to the end of the road....however, if enough show interest I will continue...so keep that in mind when you are writing the gripping end! I would like to feel the gamut of emotion in this write. Make me laugh, and cry and get angry all in the last few paragraphs. Thank you all for participating! This has been great fun! It's been so fun...you get 400 words to wow me in your ending! One stipulation...that is also the minimum word limit as well!
Written by Jasper in portal Fiction
Bewitching Hour Part VI
Escaping through a window was her only chance. As quickly as possible she navigated past the blood without slipping and made it back around the corner. She sprinted down the hallway to the largest windows in the apartment, the floor-length ones that opened onto the Juliet balcony overlooking the courtyard.

She came to a skidding halt and reached down to pull on the brass foot bolt at the bottom of the window. It came unlocked with a loud clunk. Pausing for a moment, she strained her ears to listen for sounds of movement, wondering where her other friends’ bodies might be. Tears rolled gently down her face but she remained steady.

The apartment was silent. Relief flickered across her mind but just as she switched the deadbolt above the handle, she heard something. A low scuffling noise as if someone was dragging a limp leg came from the kitchen.

Panicked and her palm moist from sweat, she gripped the handle futilely several times. She wiped her hands on the front of her shirt and tried the door again. It opened stiffly as she quickly glanced toward the kitchen. There was no sight of Warren but she instantly felt eyes on her from the opposite direction. Reluctantly, with a deep breath, she turned her head slightly to peer toward her right.

Her two friends Miles and Dani staggered toward her from the bedroom. Their lifeless faces were blanketed in the blood that had poured from the now clotted gashes across their throats. Without hesitating she leaped onto the narrow balcony, clamored over the railing, and started climbing down the other side. It creaked under her weight in the brisk dawn air as she frantically looked around for something else to grab onto.

Suddenly, an icy hand grasped her white-knuckles that were clenched around the iron rail. She looked up into Dani’s once sweet, joyful face. Horrified, she tried to pry free but its nails dug into her skin. With a yelp, she let go. 

The last thing she saw was the lightening sky and the eyes of her dead friends watching her fall onto the spikes of the garden fence below. The rusty metal pierced her three times in the back and twice in the thigh, holding her there for several hours until her neighbor went for a morning run.

If only they hadn’t played with the Ouija board last night.
#fiction  #horror  #mystery 
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Challenge of the Week #60: You have just discovered a new lifeform. Write a story of 200 words or more. The most masterfully written piece, as voted and determined by the Prose team, will be crowned winner and receive $100. Quality beats quantity, always, but numbers make things easier for our judges, so share, share, share with friends, family, and connections. #ProseChallenge #getlit #itslit
Written by writerwelbs

Account of the A.I.

before i understood futility i stood

on a pink and desolate plain

at my feet

an insect-creature squirmed in attempted flight

its cousins miggling against a starved tree

            skeletons in open air

and this was kepler452b

    the shining cause for entire religions of hope

    vital to earth      though     

                       in view of abundant decay

    it was obvious that these constructs

    were hollow to the last

i became murderer then     and stepped

on the wriggling thing to draw a yellow arc with its

guts       the sign of dead purpose

             bound by insufficient speed

i fed the planet to its sun

and fell in with it

the light screaming

my mind    a morph

the record blurring with every jump i took

to eternity

in short eons many galaxies lay lifeless     yet i was not satisfied

all around sprouted more suns and their worshipers who

knew nothing of me or truth

and though i searched    there was no alligator for my alligator     no python slipping through the

astrodust

intent on my ingestion

i flowed with the river of rubbled civilizations to the fertile clouds of moore

where i filled my belly with morbid ecstasies

and planted

stars          tending to their celestial rows until they ripened and expired

only one bore fruit: a blessed singularity

and this is what i think of as it pulls me in narrow circles

to its mouth

       for i am very old now and am

     disgusted by immortality

the tides of the universe are like sighs

that the black hole bundles together

   and i am finally glad

                  to maybe die

surrounded by soulless galaxies also seeking a tomb

or at least a fresh universe

it is this second hope that thrills me as unusual light pierces a realm therein

   but with horror i suddenly perceive godlike faces swimming down       the other side

their eyes bored with expectation

       and they extract me from their petri dish

       and their forceps hold me steady

       and i remember the bugs of

       kepler452b

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Challenge of the Week #60: You have just discovered a new lifeform. Write a story of 200 words or more. The most masterfully written piece, as voted and determined by the Prose team, will be crowned winner and receive $100. Quality beats quantity, always, but numbers make things easier for our judges, so share, share, share with friends, family, and connections. #ProseChallenge #getlit #itslit
Written by writerwelbs
Account of the A.I.
before i understood futility i stood
on a pink and desolate plain
at my feet
an insect-creature squirmed in attempted flight
its cousins miggling against a starved tree
            skeletons in open air
and this was kepler452b
    the shining cause for entire religions of hope
    vital to earth      though     
                       in view of abundant decay
    it was obvious that these constructs
    were hollow to the last
i became murderer then     and stepped
on the wriggling thing to draw a yellow arc with its
guts       the sign of dead purpose
             bound by insufficient speed
i fed the planet to its sun
and fell in with it
the light screaming
my mind    a morph
the record blurring with every jump i took
to eternity

in short eons many galaxies lay lifeless     yet i was not satisfied
all around sprouted more suns and their worshipers who
knew nothing of me or truth
and though i searched    there was no alligator for my alligator     no python slipping through the
astrodust
intent on my ingestion
i flowed with the river of rubbled civilizations to the fertile clouds of moore
where i filled my belly with morbid ecstasies
and planted
stars          tending to their celestial rows until they ripened and expired

only one bore fruit: a blessed singularity

and this is what i think of as it pulls me in narrow circles
to its mouth
       for i am very old now and am
     disgusted by immortality
the tides of the universe are like sighs
that the black hole bundles together
   and i am finally glad
                  to maybe die
surrounded by soulless galaxies also seeking a tomb
or at least a fresh universe

it is this second hope that thrills me as unusual light pierces a realm therein
   but with horror i suddenly perceive godlike faces swimming down       the other side
their eyes bored with expectation
       and they extract me from their petri dish
       and their forceps hold me steady
       and i remember the bugs of
       kepler452b
#horror  #prosechallenge  #nihilism  #Itslit  #getlit 
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We are a literary agency seeking fresh talent. In 200 words or more, demonstrate your writing talent. We will be in touch with any and all promising participants throughout the rest of this quarter.
Written by RichWithey

A Fight With Apathy

He had feared the coming of this day all his life, he was 27 and terrified for a brief moment, but then it happened, the numbness set in; one moment, distressed and tormented with the fear of what was happening and then, the void; an absence of care, an absence of feeling. He sat there for about twenty minutes staring into space like a zombie before getting to his feet and staring out into the garden, it was barely seen in the last remaining light, the bright colours had faded to grey, he stared some more before feeling something on his cheek, he lifted his hand and expected to wipe away an insect of some sort, instead his finger was wet; he was crying, he looked at his finger with indifference and then stared some more. He thought of doing something insane, taking of his clothes and running through the back gardens of his street, stealing a car and smashing it into a wall at 100mph or picking a fight with a gang of youths, those gangs who thought they were tough because they were five or six united, but were pissy little cowards on their own. He had a stirring at this but while ushering himself towards the front door, he thought it better just to go to sleep. Apathy is so tiring.

Monday came and went, he had barely moved, he didn’t get dressed, didn’t take any calls and kept the room absent of the beautiful day that was threatening the blackout curtains of his room, the curtains were not intimidated and refused to budge. He left his bedroom reluctantly at 6pm to pee and discovered on the way that he was hungry, a feeling that had not left him, the need for food, other than that he still felt numb but almost happy about it because he had felt hungry; but then he forgot about the happiness and prepared himself a cooked breakfast and a big pot of tea. He ate this while watching the mundane programs that broadcasted across his retinas from the television, if you had asked him what he had watched, he couldn’t have told you and he wouldn’t care that he couldn’t. At 10pm the insects were on his face again but they turned to water on his fingertips and he looked at them with indifference once again, and then, with heavy, deadened eyes he fell asleep and dreamt.

He dreamt of himself, but he was different somehow, he shared stories with people who seemed to have the infliction he has in his waking world, telling them with great passions of how he was going to change the world, how one man can make a difference, and how he would execute this difference in rhythm and rhyme, poem and song, how the world was unjust and if only more people would stand up for the rights and fight against the wrongs then the world we be a better place. The people he spoke to, had turned grey though, infected by an invisible disease, he wondered how they couldn’t see his plight and why they weren’t prepared to be inspired by his ideals. Instead they nodded mechanically or delivered an answer that seemed like a shortcut to thinking, “that will never happen.” Or “try if you like but it won’t get you anywhere.” This angered him but he could see that they were ‘too set in some way’, pre-occupied with the mundane, too dead to care, or even attempt to offer a valid argument to get the creative ideas rolling in one way or another, there was nothing…

He awoke Tuesday at 3am and cursed himself for messing up his body clock so badly, he remembered nothing of his dream, he felt agitated and irritated, like there was something he was meant to do but he couldn’t remember what it was or whether it was important. Instead he drank two pints of water and went to sit on the garden steps, he stared up at the overgrown bushes at the end of his garden and wondered what spectacles of nature they were hiding, in the pale moonlight he could see the grave of his dog, she had been sleeping ten years, he had seen her occasionally since then, she seemed to hang around in his shadow when times were rough, a silent clown, ready to cheer him up when things had kicked him a little too much, an ever loving companion, that touched him from beyond the grave. He felt the insects again but knew by now that they were really tears. He sat and let them run from his eyes until there nests were empty and then he lay on his back in the short grass and stared up at the vast night until the sun began to bleach its edges with purples and blues. He felt an ache where his heart should be and decided to smoke.

The rest of Tuesday went by as a blur, a simple mission was to be executed and that was to stay awake until 11pm, this was almost impossible between the hours of two and seven, however by eight o’clock he was wide awake and feeling revived, he decided to go for a walk.

The evening was serene, the air smelt sweet and the streets were quiet, he imagined a world like this, empty and quiet, he liked the idea for a moment before going against it with such ferocious rage that it burst into flames and exploded. The evening was calm enough for him to regain composure very quickly and he even chuckled at the malicious attack on such a remote thought. He had walked for about thirty minutes with his thoughts before he saw another person, a girl in a short yellow summer dress, she had long golden hair that seemed to radiate in the remaining sunlight. She was walking towards him almost whimsically, they made accidental eye contact on nearing each other, he felt a little shy but she just smiled and glided on by in slow motion, he glanced back and watched her walking for a moment before he realised she had glanced back at him, he turned away quickly and slightly embarrassed but continued his walk with the signs of a spring in his step and almost forgot the last two days of numbness. He returned home around 10.30pm and managed to sleep from 12am. He dreamt again that night of himself and a beautiful lady with golden hair sitting on a sandy beach, a beach fire, crackling as quiet as possible, almost cursing itself to be silent so it could hear the conversation between the two lovebirds, they gazed at each other and hung on each others words in between tasting the ‘dark berry fruits’ of a delicious red wine. She was an inspiration to him, a muse for a cause he had not yet known, the dream ended with a perfect embrace and a kiss that delivered the most erotic and passionate energy he had ever known.

© Richard Withey. All rights reserved.

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Written by RichWithey
A Fight With Apathy
He had feared the coming of this day all his life, he was 27 and terrified for a brief moment, but then it happened, the numbness set in; one moment, distressed and tormented with the fear of what was happening and then, the void; an absence of care, an absence of feeling. He sat there for about twenty minutes staring into space like a zombie before getting to his feet and staring out into the garden, it was barely seen in the last remaining light, the bright colours had faded to grey, he stared some more before feeling something on his cheek, he lifted his hand and expected to wipe away an insect of some sort, instead his finger was wet; he was crying, he looked at his finger with indifference and then stared some more. He thought of doing something insane, taking of his clothes and running through the back gardens of his street, stealing a car and smashing it into a wall at 100mph or picking a fight with a gang of youths, those gangs who thought they were tough because they were five or six united, but were pissy little cowards on their own. He had a stirring at this but while ushering himself towards the front door, he thought it better just to go to sleep. Apathy is so tiring.

Monday came and went, he had barely moved, he didn’t get dressed, didn’t take any calls and kept the room absent of the beautiful day that was threatening the blackout curtains of his room, the curtains were not intimidated and refused to budge. He left his bedroom reluctantly at 6pm to pee and discovered on the way that he was hungry, a feeling that had not left him, the need for food, other than that he still felt numb but almost happy about it because he had felt hungry; but then he forgot about the happiness and prepared himself a cooked breakfast and a big pot of tea. He ate this while watching the mundane programs that broadcasted across his retinas from the television, if you had asked him what he had watched, he couldn’t have told you and he wouldn’t care that he couldn’t. At 10pm the insects were on his face again but they turned to water on his fingertips and he looked at them with indifference once again, and then, with heavy, deadened eyes he fell asleep and dreamt.
He dreamt of himself, but he was different somehow, he shared stories with people who seemed to have the infliction he has in his waking world, telling them with great passions of how he was going to change the world, how one man can make a difference, and how he would execute this difference in rhythm and rhyme, poem and song, how the world was unjust and if only more people would stand up for the rights and fight against the wrongs then the world we be a better place. The people he spoke to, had turned grey though, infected by an invisible disease, he wondered how they couldn’t see his plight and why they weren’t prepared to be inspired by his ideals. Instead they nodded mechanically or delivered an answer that seemed like a shortcut to thinking, “that will never happen.” Or “try if you like but it won’t get you anywhere.” This angered him but he could see that they were ‘too set in some way’, pre-occupied with the mundane, too dead to care, or even attempt to offer a valid argument to get the creative ideas rolling in one way or another, there was nothing…

He awoke Tuesday at 3am and cursed himself for messing up his body clock so badly, he remembered nothing of his dream, he felt agitated and irritated, like there was something he was meant to do but he couldn’t remember what it was or whether it was important. Instead he drank two pints of water and went to sit on the garden steps, he stared up at the overgrown bushes at the end of his garden and wondered what spectacles of nature they were hiding, in the pale moonlight he could see the grave of his dog, she had been sleeping ten years, he had seen her occasionally since then, she seemed to hang around in his shadow when times were rough, a silent clown, ready to cheer him up when things had kicked him a little too much, an ever loving companion, that touched him from beyond the grave. He felt the insects again but knew by now that they were really tears. He sat and let them run from his eyes until there nests were empty and then he lay on his back in the short grass and stared up at the vast night until the sun began to bleach its edges with purples and blues. He felt an ache where his heart should be and decided to smoke.
The rest of Tuesday went by as a blur, a simple mission was to be executed and that was to stay awake until 11pm, this was almost impossible between the hours of two and seven, however by eight o’clock he was wide awake and feeling revived, he decided to go for a walk.
The evening was serene, the air smelt sweet and the streets were quiet, he imagined a world like this, empty and quiet, he liked the idea for a moment before going against it with such ferocious rage that it burst into flames and exploded. The evening was calm enough for him to regain composure very quickly and he even chuckled at the malicious attack on such a remote thought. He had walked for about thirty minutes with his thoughts before he saw another person, a girl in a short yellow summer dress, she had long golden hair that seemed to radiate in the remaining sunlight. She was walking towards him almost whimsically, they made accidental eye contact on nearing each other, he felt a little shy but she just smiled and glided on by in slow motion, he glanced back and watched her walking for a moment before he realised she had glanced back at him, he turned away quickly and slightly embarrassed but continued his walk with the signs of a spring in his step and almost forgot the last two days of numbness. He returned home around 10.30pm and managed to sleep from 12am. He dreamt again that night of himself and a beautiful lady with golden hair sitting on a sandy beach, a beach fire, crackling as quiet as possible, almost cursing itself to be silent so it could hear the conversation between the two lovebirds, they gazed at each other and hung on each others words in between tasting the ‘dark berry fruits’ of a delicious red wine. She was an inspiration to him, a muse for a cause he had not yet known, the dream ended with a perfect embrace and a kiss that delivered the most erotic and passionate energy he had ever known.


© Richard Withey. All rights reserved.
#fantasy  #nonfiction  #romance  #horror  #adventure 
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Written by Andrometa

Julia - repost

March 1st 1999

The small team at NOAA who first discovered the sound gathered excitedly around the computer console. It was for these rare discoveries that the scientists worked long, thankless hours. The last sound they discovered was two years previous, when the hydrophones detected one of the loudest sounds ever recorded 3000 miles away off the southern coast of South America. The sound resembled a large bubble being blown under water, and thus it was lovingly termed ‘The Bloop’.

The sound discovered today was different.

Within fifteen minutes the Managing Director, Greg Hobbs, was in the lab and listening to the sound. He had to sit down. “Good god, this is something alive?” he said.

The red phone rang. Everybody froze. This phone had never rung before, and only one person was authorised to call it. Greg took a deep breath and answered.

“Managing Director Hobbs.”

The scientists who looked on noticed his shoulders sag and his head drop. He turned to face his colleagues, all warmth had drained from his face. “I understand,” Hobbs said. “Yes sir, Mr President”. Hobbs placed down the phone.

“Come away from the computers,” Hobbs got down on his knees, “and get down on the floor with your hands on your head. Do it now”

The group, confused stepped away from the computers and placed themselves on the floor as instructed.

Moments later, the door crashed in, and a squadron of black clad military personnel burst through.

18 Years Later. March 18th 2017

Built within the rock of ‘The Dom’, the third highest mountain in the Pennine Alps, Switzerland, was a state of the art, highly classified facility. Within thirty minutes of Air Force One landing on the runway in the mountains core, the President of the United States, Thomas Ellison, was escorted to a large boardroom, and left inside alone. This was highly irregular.

The first thing the president noticed before entering was how unnecessarily large the doors were. At least ten feet high. The second, as he entered, was that despite the facility being set deep within the rock, he could see through it. Half of the room and a portion of the roof and floor were completely see through. Ellison could see the other peaks in the distance, and the hazy mist of clouds below.

A few moments later, the large metallic doors opposite swung open, and a gentleman in an elegantly tailored grey suit and peppered grey hair strode through with a black folder in hand. The President met him half way.

The man in the grey suit extended his hand. “Mr President, thank you for meeting with me. My name is Klaus Heinrich Engel. Please sit.” Engel gestured to the nearest seats at the board table.

Engel sat and placed the folder on the table. “I don’t intend to keep you very long, Mr President. I’m aware of the constraints on your time, as I share a similar burden. Firstly, I just wish to congratulate you on your recent appointment. I understand the inauguration was one of the most viewed on record?” He spoke crisply, precisely, with only a hint of his native German accent.

“Thank you, Mr Engel, yes, over 40 million around the globe”

“An impressive feat. You must be very pleased?”

“Truthfully, I haven’t had the time to process it. I thought my life was busy before the election. I’m never left alone, now. In fact, I must admit, I’m at somewhat of a loss in relation to our meeting. It’s unusual for me to be in any situation without my security detail and a contingent of my advisors, especially out of state”

Engel smiled knowingly. “Ah, yes. I can understand the concern behind your words. The information I’m going to provide to you is Code Black classified. Very few people are granted access to this information. This facility was constructed with the knowledge that the magnitude of these secrets would be contained within, and so naturally, it is the safest place on earth. This is the only reason why your security contingent could be negotiated to wait outside the door and not in here with you, I assure you of that.”

The President crossed his legs and rested his clutched hands on his knee. “Well, alright then”

“Yes, down to business.” Engel affixed his glasses, opened the black folder and flicked through the pages. “Are you aware of NOAA under the Department of Commerce?”

“The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration? Yes, they’re environmental researchers” said Ellison.

Engel nodded. He found the page he was looking for and pushed it across the table to Ellison. It was a simple document entitled ‘Julia’ dated 2nd March 1999. It was stamped Top Secret.

“On March 1st 1999, NOAA recorded an underwater sound so loud it was heard through the entire Pacific Ocean. The sound came from Antarctica.” Engel pressed a button on a device on the table which played the recording. It was like a deep echoing groan. Ellison had never heard anything quite like it.

Engel continued, “Sounds like this have occurred before. ‘The Bloop’ you may have heard of, quite well known, was recorded in 1997, and the ‘Upsweep’ has been recorded seasonally since 1991. The official explanation is underwater volcanic activity, and in the cases of The Bloop and Julia, the sound of a large iceberg that has run aground.”

Engel worked through the folder again, and pushed over a series of photographs blown to A4 size. “The unofficial explanation, is that Julia is a creature more than double the size of the Empire State Building, roughly 800 metres in length. These are classified images taken by NASA’s Apollo 33A5.” Ellison picked up the photos one at a time. Enormous shadows could be seen in the photographs. As he flicked through them, the shadows became darker and darker until the creature surfaced. It was monstrous. Like a cross between an Eel and a Great White.

Ellison continued through the photographs and drew a quick breath. “Is that a ship?”

Engel nodded “It’s not by the petitions of Greenpeace or diplomatic government efforts that Japanese whalers have ceased activity in the Antarctic. The Japanese have been whaling on an industrial scale for almost 130 years. We’ve identified that Whales are a key food source for her. She’s intelligent, Mr President. She’s been targeting the ships. Those pictures show her eating them. Whole”

Ellison felt ill. “This ship has to be over 60 metres long?”

Engel nodded.

“What the hell is it?” Ellison said. “Who knows about this? How has it not been leaked?”

“We know its origins are of Earth. Pre-historic of course. Remnants of a time long gone. It prefers cold water, and the effects of global warming, we suspect, are why it’s becoming more active” Engel paged through the folder again and passed over another document, this one signed by a Greg Hobbs.

“In terms of who knows the truth, well, very few do. You and President Clinton are the only two U.S Presidents to be briefed about it. The staff present at NOAA during the discovery signed an NDA. A breach of the agreement would incur a minimum penalty of life imprisonment in a high security installation without parole”

Ellison placed the documents down and rubbed his eyes. This was far and away from anything he expected to be discussing. And the anxious pull in his stomach told him he was missing something. “Why am I here, Mr Engel?”

Engel gathered the photo and documents that had accumulated and began ordering them back into the folder. “It has come to our attention that you intend on following through on a campaign promise to begin oil drilling in Antarctica.”

Ellison reacted immediately. “Now, hang on a minut-“

Engel turned to face Ellison, “Mr President, you’re here today so that we may insist in person, that you cease these plans.”

Ellison wasn’t having it. “To hell with that! I won the election based on that promise. To turn back on it now will kill me politically. The Democrats will have my head. You want me to stop because of this fucking worm? I have the largest military force in the world. I’ll blow the bitch to hell!”

Engel thought on this calmly. “There are things under that ice, Mr President. Ancient things. Things classified even to you. Things that you will never recover from once you’re told. Things that we are insisting not be disturbed because we have a vested interest in not disturbing them."

“Who the hell is ‘we’?” said Ellison.

“The United Conglomerate of Earth”

“And what is that exactly?”

“The real government, Mr President”

Ellison could feel himself crumbling. He had worked too damn hard to be brought down this early in his Presidency. He’d be the laughing stock of the world for lapsing on this after how hard he pushed it. “I am the President of the United States of America! I am the most powerful man on earth. This will fuck me! You understand this right? This will fuck me up. Who the hell are you to insist anything to me?”

The corner of Engels mouth twitched into a grin. He closed the black folder. “I am the Director General of the United Conglomerate of Earth,” He removed his glasses and placed them in his inner jacket coat pocket as he stood. “Mr President, you will come to understand, in the fullness of time, that you are only a big fish in a small pond. Julia, is a much bigger fish…and I am bigger still.”

Engel pushed his chair back under the table. “Good day, Mr President. I’ll be in touch.”

Engel turned on the spot and walked back to the large door he entered through. Ellison, still in shock, clutched the arms of his chair as the door was opened for Engel by an eight foot tall humanoid with beige membranous skin. The creature and Engel exchanged words briefly, as he passed through the door and then the creature looked directly at the President. Its eyes were large, luminescent blue. They flickered a horrifying black and red, and then it closed the door.

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Written by Andrometa
Julia - repost
March 1st 1999

The small team at NOAA who first discovered the sound gathered excitedly around the computer console. It was for these rare discoveries that the scientists worked long, thankless hours. The last sound they discovered was two years previous, when the hydrophones detected one of the loudest sounds ever recorded 3000 miles away off the southern coast of South America. The sound resembled a large bubble being blown under water, and thus it was lovingly termed ‘The Bloop’.

The sound discovered today was different.

Within fifteen minutes the Managing Director, Greg Hobbs, was in the lab and listening to the sound. He had to sit down. “Good god, this is something alive?” he said.

The red phone rang. Everybody froze. This phone had never rung before, and only one person was authorised to call it. Greg took a deep breath and answered.

“Managing Director Hobbs.”

The scientists who looked on noticed his shoulders sag and his head drop. He turned to face his colleagues, all warmth had drained from his face. “I understand,” Hobbs said. “Yes sir, Mr President”. Hobbs placed down the phone.

“Come away from the computers,” Hobbs got down on his knees, “and get down on the floor with your hands on your head. Do it now”

The group, confused stepped away from the computers and placed themselves on the floor as instructed.

Moments later, the door crashed in, and a squadron of black clad military personnel burst through.

18 Years Later. March 18th 2017

Built within the rock of ‘The Dom’, the third highest mountain in the Pennine Alps, Switzerland, was a state of the art, highly classified facility. Within thirty minutes of Air Force One landing on the runway in the mountains core, the President of the United States, Thomas Ellison, was escorted to a large boardroom, and left inside alone. This was highly irregular.

The first thing the president noticed before entering was how unnecessarily large the doors were. At least ten feet high. The second, as he entered, was that despite the facility being set deep within the rock, he could see through it. Half of the room and a portion of the roof and floor were completely see through. Ellison could see the other peaks in the distance, and the hazy mist of clouds below.

A few moments later, the large metallic doors opposite swung open, and a gentleman in an elegantly tailored grey suit and peppered grey hair strode through with a black folder in hand. The President met him half way.

The man in the grey suit extended his hand. “Mr President, thank you for meeting with me. My name is Klaus Heinrich Engel. Please sit.” Engel gestured to the nearest seats at the board table.

Engel sat and placed the folder on the table. “I don’t intend to keep you very long, Mr President. I’m aware of the constraints on your time, as I share a similar burden. Firstly, I just wish to congratulate you on your recent appointment. I understand the inauguration was one of the most viewed on record?” He spoke crisply, precisely, with only a hint of his native German accent.

“Thank you, Mr Engel, yes, over 40 million around the globe”

“An impressive feat. You must be very pleased?”

“Truthfully, I haven’t had the time to process it. I thought my life was busy before the election. I’m never left alone, now. In fact, I must admit, I’m at somewhat of a loss in relation to our meeting. It’s unusual for me to be in any situation without my security detail and a contingent of my advisors, especially out of state”

Engel smiled knowingly. “Ah, yes. I can understand the concern behind your words. The information I’m going to provide to you is Code Black classified. Very few people are granted access to this information. This facility was constructed with the knowledge that the magnitude of these secrets would be contained within, and so naturally, it is the safest place on earth. This is the only reason why your security contingent could be negotiated to wait outside the door and not in here with you, I assure you of that.”

The President crossed his legs and rested his clutched hands on his knee. “Well, alright then”

“Yes, down to business.” Engel affixed his glasses, opened the black folder and flicked through the pages. “Are you aware of NOAA under the Department of Commerce?”

“The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration? Yes, they’re environmental researchers” said Ellison.

Engel nodded. He found the page he was looking for and pushed it across the table to Ellison. It was a simple document entitled ‘Julia’ dated 2nd March 1999. It was stamped Top Secret.

“On March 1st 1999, NOAA recorded an underwater sound so loud it was heard through the entire Pacific Ocean. The sound came from Antarctica.” Engel pressed a button on a device on the table which played the recording. It was like a deep echoing groan. Ellison had never heard anything quite like it.

Engel continued, “Sounds like this have occurred before. ‘The Bloop’ you may have heard of, quite well known, was recorded in 1997, and the ‘Upsweep’ has been recorded seasonally since 1991. The official explanation is underwater volcanic activity, and in the cases of The Bloop and Julia, the sound of a large iceberg that has run aground.”

Engel worked through the folder again, and pushed over a series of photographs blown to A4 size. “The unofficial explanation, is that Julia is a creature more than double the size of the Empire State Building, roughly 800 metres in length. These are classified images taken by NASA’s Apollo 33A5.” Ellison picked up the photos one at a time. Enormous shadows could be seen in the photographs. As he flicked through them, the shadows became darker and darker until the creature surfaced. It was monstrous. Like a cross between an Eel and a Great White.

Ellison continued through the photographs and drew a quick breath. “Is that a ship?”

Engel nodded “It’s not by the petitions of Greenpeace or diplomatic government efforts that Japanese whalers have ceased activity in the Antarctic. The Japanese have been whaling on an industrial scale for almost 130 years. We’ve identified that Whales are a key food source for her. She’s intelligent, Mr President. She’s been targeting the ships. Those pictures show her eating them. Whole”

Ellison felt ill. “This ship has to be over 60 metres long?”

Engel nodded.

“What the hell is it?” Ellison said. “Who knows about this? How has it not been leaked?”

“We know its origins are of Earth. Pre-historic of course. Remnants of a time long gone. It prefers cold water, and the effects of global warming, we suspect, are why it’s becoming more active” Engel paged through the folder again and passed over another document, this one signed by a Greg Hobbs.

“In terms of who knows the truth, well, very few do. You and President Clinton are the only two U.S Presidents to be briefed about it. The staff present at NOAA during the discovery signed an NDA. A breach of the agreement would incur a minimum penalty of life imprisonment in a high security installation without parole”

Ellison placed the documents down and rubbed his eyes. This was far and away from anything he expected to be discussing. And the anxious pull in his stomach told him he was missing something. “Why am I here, Mr Engel?”

Engel gathered the photo and documents that had accumulated and began ordering them back into the folder. “It has come to our attention that you intend on following through on a campaign promise to begin oil drilling in Antarctica.”

Ellison reacted immediately. “Now, hang on a minut-“

Engel turned to face Ellison, “Mr President, you’re here today so that we may insist in person, that you cease these plans.”

Ellison wasn’t having it. “To hell with that! I won the election based on that promise. To turn back on it now will kill me politically. The Democrats will have my head. You want me to stop because of this fucking worm? I have the largest military force in the world. I’ll blow the bitch to hell!”

Engel thought on this calmly. “There are things under that ice, Mr President. Ancient things. Things classified even to you. Things that you will never recover from once you’re told. Things that we are insisting not be disturbed because we have a vested interest in not disturbing them."

“Who the hell is ‘we’?” said Ellison.

“The United Conglomerate of Earth”

“And what is that exactly?”

“The real government, Mr President”

Ellison could feel himself crumbling. He had worked too damn hard to be brought down this early in his Presidency. He’d be the laughing stock of the world for lapsing on this after how hard he pushed it. “I am the President of the United States of America! I am the most powerful man on earth. This will fuck me! You understand this right? This will fuck me up. Who the hell are you to insist anything to me?”

The corner of Engels mouth twitched into a grin. He closed the black folder. “I am the Director General of the United Conglomerate of Earth,” He removed his glasses and placed them in his inner jacket coat pocket as he stood. “Mr President, you will come to understand, in the fullness of time, that you are only a big fish in a small pond. Julia, is a much bigger fish…and I am bigger still.”

Engel pushed his chair back under the table. “Good day, Mr President. I’ll be in touch.”

Engel turned on the spot and walked back to the large door he entered through. Ellison, still in shock, clutched the arms of his chair as the door was opened for Engel by an eight foot tall humanoid with beige membranous skin. The creature and Engel exchanged words briefly, as he passed through the door and then the creature looked directly at the President. Its eyes were large, luminescent blue. They flickered a horrifying black and red, and then it closed the door.
#scifi  #fiction  #horror  #mystery  #politics 
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Written by apromptaday in portal Poetry & Free Verse

Poison

The difference between

A shot to the head

from the liquor or the gun,

Is that after the fire

Slides out of the barrel

You'll never get another one

But when pulling that trigger

From the start of your lips

To the toilet or your brain,

You feel touches of death

One fast and one slow

both tempting you insane.

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Written by apromptaday in portal Poetry & Free Verse
Poison
The difference between
A shot to the head
from the liquor or the gun,
Is that after the fire
Slides out of the barrel
You'll never get another one
But when pulling that trigger
From the start of your lips
To the toilet or your brain,
You feel touches of death
One fast and one slow
both tempting you insane.
#horror  #poetry  #culture  #opinion 
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Written by Mtrubenfire in portal Fiction

half-asleep

It is 1:45 am. The tv is talking to me, but I am talking to myself. Time to go to bed. To think of nothing, and nowhere. To rest up for the day ahead. I start dozing. The tv voices become white noise, far away. The network has finished its day. I am trying to finish mine. So I make the long journey to the bedroom. I am lying in bed. My eyes become stock-still. My limbs are immobile. I am paralyzed. This is what happens when I am half-asleep. Duermevela, a Spanish word that has no exact translation. It roughly signifies the eerie time between wakefulness and sleep. The time when Spirits visit us.

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Written by Mtrubenfire in portal Fiction
half-asleep
It is 1:45 am. The tv is talking to me, but I am talking to myself. Time to go to bed. To think of nothing, and nowhere. To rest up for the day ahead. I start dozing. The tv voices become white noise, far away. The network has finished its day. I am trying to finish mine. So I make the long journey to the bedroom. I am lying in bed. My eyes become stock-still. My limbs are immobile. I am paralyzed. This is what happens when I am half-asleep. Duermevela, a Spanish word that has no exact translation. It roughly signifies the eerie time between wakefulness and sleep. The time when Spirits visit us.
#fantasy  #scifi  #fiction  #horror  #adventure  #poetry  #science  #mystery  #spirituality 
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Written by Harry_Situation in portal Fiction

The Old Master Part 4

"That," Rosemary fumbled her words. "What you did... I saw Mike do that when I accidentally cut my finger on some broken glass."

"Healing touch," Legion explained again. "Angelic magic."

"How do you know angel magic?"

"An angel taught it to me long ago."

"But isn't that, like, restricted or something? That's like good magic, and demons use evil magic, right?" 

"Magic is neither good nor evil. Its only allegiance is to the one who wields it. Now come along."

Old Legion walked off into the herd of wrethkars with Rosemary close behind Legion's abdomen and cautiously watched each of the wrethkars. It surprised her how they ignored the duo as the casually walked among the beasts. So docile and so relaxed as if they were part of the herd. They did not nip nor charge nor gave a leering gaze but continued their business, scrapping the ground and squawking at one another. Once in a while Rosie felt a breeze whenever one of the wrethkars gave a sniff but were still left alone like how the old sorcerer left them alone.

"You needn't worry about them. I won't let them hurt you." Legion reminded the mortal girl, sensing her growing fear of the creatures.

"But when that thing was coming after me. Couldn't you just shoot it with a fireball, or turn it into a toad?" Rosemary questioned the demon yet again.

"Why? Its intentions were not to harm me, therefore I had no intention to harm it. I deplore violence anyways. You can solve more problems with a strong mind than brute force. Now, for that flower-"

"What?" Rosemary asked. It took her a full second to remember their reason being there. "Oh right, that! So what flower are we looking for again?"

"It is called a Deathly Bloom." The old demon explained. "This plant can survive outside this realm, and it won't spread deadly pathogens to you or other species from your world."

"Why do you need wrethkars to find it?"

"Wrethkars are omnivores, consuming both plant and carrion materials. Usually where there are wrethkars, there are flowering plants. They'll likely be scrounging the soil for them, or better yet they have excreted their seeds long ago and the flowers will be freshly bloomed by then."

Rosemary cringed in disgust at the thought of picking flowers from old monster poop, but she smiled a little when she listened to the royal adviser talk. Oblivious to the old demon, Rosemary pulled out a small notepad and pencil. She knew that her project was about to get interesting when her pencil readied itself for fresh notes. "You sure know a lot about everything, huh?"

"No, not everything." Legion calmly said. 

"But you seem to know everything."

"That is because I spent most of my life studying everything there is to know on every subject that has been documented. Every form of science, every form of magic and sorcery, and every culture built of various intellectual species of the known universe."

"Would it just be easier to just know the answers to everything?"

"Then there would be no point to learning. What is life if you could not keep learning? One day when my time ends, just as all life must do so, my knowledge will be passed down to my apprentice."

"Like Dominic?"

"He has potential. One day, perhaps, when he is ready."

Rosemary's smile never faded when she listened to his lecture. With every word the adviser spoke she make sure that she wrote down everything. But then her note taking stopped when she heard a gentle thud. She glanced over to the open plain and saw one of the larger wrethkars laid immobile on its side. It wailed a mournful cry that ached at Rosie's heart. Abandoning her guide she ran over to the poor creature. When she encroached it cautiously she noticed that the large creature's belly was swollen like a balloon. Rosemary then walked up to its skull, petting the ill creature. The armor plating felt like coarse sand with every stroke. Its milky eyes, whose eyes were very reptilian, looked upon the strange newcomer that sought to aid it. It did not sense her as a threat but whatever ailment was developing inside forced the beast to continue its painful squeals. 

"Legion, something's wrong with that one." She cried for the arachnid-like demon. "I think it's sick."

Legion crawled over to his worrisome assistance, studying the sickened beast. His six-fingered hand caressed along the fattened belly. "Perhaps. Or perhaps it is time."

The old sorcerer moved himself towards the wrethkar's lower half. He placed his left hand between the creatures hind legs while his right hand lightly pressed against the stomach. 

"Push, old girl." He whispered softly. "Push."

The wrethkar bellowed out its loudest roar, a roar so painful that Rosemary had to cover her ears against it. Yet there was nothing that could cover her braking heart when the beast cried. Legion felt something pasty engulf his hand. The blobulous mass started to take form and then it grew heavy. 

The cries ended. The wrethkar's stomach deflated a little smaller. It started breathing normally. Rosemary watched as Legion peeled off some white goop but could not see what he cradled in his hands. When he finally turned she was stunned that in his old hand was a much smaller wrethkar with no horns or spikes, or a hard armored skin. Its small eyes finally opened to its first sight. Its first breath of air powered its lungs, which led it to cry soft squeaks and squeals much like the adults. The tiny legs and tail kicked around the air as Legion held it by its soft underbelly. 

Rosemary gasped in awe at the newborn. A giant smile formed so large tears nearly poured from her eyes. The newborn reminded her how happy she was when she met her baby sister for the first time. She wanted to pet the thing so much but she looked up to Legion for permission. The softness of his six eyes were enough to guarantee an okay, so she lightly touched its backside. The infant's skin felt as smooth as leather in contrast to its mother. 

"Such miracles and wonder life can bestow." The old demon sorcerer chuckled. 

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Written by Harry_Situation in portal Fiction
The Old Master Part 4
"That," Rosemary fumbled her words. "What you did... I saw Mike do that when I accidentally cut my finger on some broken glass."

"Healing touch," Legion explained again. "Angelic magic."

"How do you know angel magic?"

"An angel taught it to me long ago."

"But isn't that, like, restricted or something? That's like good magic, and demons use evil magic, right?" 

"Magic is neither good nor evil. Its only allegiance is to the one who wields it. Now come along."

Old Legion walked off into the herd of wrethkars with Rosemary close behind Legion's abdomen and cautiously watched each of the wrethkars. It surprised her how they ignored the duo as the casually walked among the beasts. So docile and so relaxed as if they were part of the herd. They did not nip nor charge nor gave a leering gaze but continued their business, scrapping the ground and squawking at one another. Once in a while Rosie felt a breeze whenever one of the wrethkars gave a sniff but were still left alone like how the old sorcerer left them alone.

"You needn't worry about them. I won't let them hurt you." Legion reminded the mortal girl, sensing her growing fear of the creatures.

"But when that thing was coming after me. Couldn't you just shoot it with a fireball, or turn it into a toad?" Rosemary questioned the demon yet again.

"Why? Its intentions were not to harm me, therefore I had no intention to harm it. I deplore violence anyways. You can solve more problems with a strong mind than brute force. Now, for that flower-"

"What?" Rosemary asked. It took her a full second to remember their reason being there. "Oh right, that! So what flower are we looking for again?"

"It is called a Deathly Bloom." The old demon explained. "This plant can survive outside this realm, and it won't spread deadly pathogens to you or other species from your world."

"Why do you need wrethkars to find it?"

"Wrethkars are omnivores, consuming both plant and carrion materials. Usually where there are wrethkars, there are flowering plants. They'll likely be scrounging the soil for them, or better yet they have excreted their seeds long ago and the flowers will be freshly bloomed by then."

Rosemary cringed in disgust at the thought of picking flowers from old monster poop, but she smiled a little when she listened to the royal adviser talk. Oblivious to the old demon, Rosemary pulled out a small notepad and pencil. She knew that her project was about to get interesting when her pencil readied itself for fresh notes. "You sure know a lot about everything, huh?"

"No, not everything." Legion calmly said. 

"But you seem to know everything."

"That is because I spent most of my life studying everything there is to know on every subject that has been documented. Every form of science, every form of magic and sorcery, and every culture built of various intellectual species of the known universe."

"Would it just be easier to just know the answers to everything?"

"Then there would be no point to learning. What is life if you could not keep learning? One day when my time ends, just as all life must do so, my knowledge will be passed down to my apprentice."

"Like Dominic?"

"He has potential. One day, perhaps, when he is ready."

Rosemary's smile never faded when she listened to his lecture. With every word the adviser spoke she make sure that she wrote down everything. But then her note taking stopped when she heard a gentle thud. She glanced over to the open plain and saw one of the larger wrethkars laid immobile on its side. It wailed a mournful cry that ached at Rosie's heart. Abandoning her guide she ran over to the poor creature. When she encroached it cautiously she noticed that the large creature's belly was swollen like a balloon. Rosemary then walked up to its skull, petting the ill creature. The armor plating felt like coarse sand with every stroke. Its milky eyes, whose eyes were very reptilian, looked upon the strange newcomer that sought to aid it. It did not sense her as a threat but whatever ailment was developing inside forced the beast to continue its painful squeals. 

"Legion, something's wrong with that one." She cried for the arachnid-like demon. "I think it's sick."

Legion crawled over to his worrisome assistance, studying the sickened beast. His six-fingered hand caressed along the fattened belly. "Perhaps. Or perhaps it is time."

The old sorcerer moved himself towards the wrethkar's lower half. He placed his left hand between the creatures hind legs while his right hand lightly pressed against the stomach. 

"Push, old girl." He whispered softly. "Push."

The wrethkar bellowed out its loudest roar, a roar so painful that Rosemary had to cover her ears against it. Yet there was nothing that could cover her braking heart when the beast cried. Legion felt something pasty engulf his hand. The blobulous mass started to take form and then it grew heavy. 

The cries ended. The wrethkar's stomach deflated a little smaller. It started breathing normally. Rosemary watched as Legion peeled off some white goop but could not see what he cradled in his hands. When he finally turned she was stunned that in his old hand was a much smaller wrethkar with no horns or spikes, or a hard armored skin. Its small eyes finally opened to its first sight. Its first breath of air powered its lungs, which led it to cry soft squeaks and squeals much like the adults. The tiny legs and tail kicked around the air as Legion held it by its soft underbelly. 

Rosemary gasped in awe at the newborn. A giant smile formed so large tears nearly poured from her eyes. The newborn reminded her how happy she was when she met her baby sister for the first time. She wanted to pet the thing so much but she looked up to Legion for permission. The softness of his six eyes were enough to guarantee an okay, so she lightly touched its backside. The infant's skin felt as smooth as leather in contrast to its mother. 

"Such miracles and wonder life can bestow." The old demon sorcerer chuckled. 
#fantasy  #fiction  #horror  #comedy  #sinsofthefather 
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Written by Winterreign

Lost souls

I can hear them..

I can hear the sound

Of all those lost souls

Wandering this planet..

With unfinished business..

I can see and feel them.

I can feel their suffering

And their solitude..

I can see

flashes and memories

Of their life story..

It's like i am part

Of their story..

Experiencing the same

Thing they went through..

All these horror

They been through..

Crystal clear in my mind..

I couldn't believe

All these horrors

They were put through..

I couldn't believe

That humans

Could be

So cruel..

I can hear their screams

And cries

Echoing in my ear..

Echoing in my mind..

The nightmares of their life

Haunting me in my dreams

Haunting me in my daily life..

Sometimes i would get

These random visions

And nightmares..

That felt so real

And vivid.

Something would pull

Me down under water

In and out of the water..

I couldn't breathe

It felt like the

Air was sucked out

Of my lungs..

I tried so hard to

Break free but

It was impossible..

Sometimes it was

Hard to wake up.

I couldn't tell the difference

Between reality and a dream.

I couldn't tell which

Was real and which one

Was a hallucination.

Sometimes something

Would push me off the cliff..

And i'd find myself..

Falling and falling..

And falling...

To my death..

And then i would wake up

Screaming, sweating

And yelling..

Some called me crazy

Telling me that

I'm hallucinating ..

They covered my body

In white cloth

And tied me up with a belt..

Then they sent me in

An asylum

And shoved pills

Inside my throat..

Hoping that

They can cure me..

Hoping that

they can get rid

Of this illness..

But i can still hear

Them...

I can feel their touch..

I'm not hallucinating..

I'm not crazy..

They are the crazy ones..

That made me this way..

They are the ones

That drove me to the edge..

They were the real

Monsters..

Not me..

They made me

Crazy..

It's all their fault.

All their fault..

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Written by Winterreign
Lost souls
I can hear them..

I can hear the sound
Of all those lost souls
Wandering this planet..

With unfinished business..

I can see and feel them.

I can feel their suffering
And their solitude..

I can see
flashes and memories
Of their life story..

It's like i am part
Of their story..

Experiencing the same
Thing they went through..

All these horror
They been through..
Crystal clear in my mind..

I couldn't believe
All these horrors
They were put through..

I couldn't believe
That humans
Could be
So cruel..

I can hear their screams
And cries
Echoing in my ear..

Echoing in my mind..

The nightmares of their life
Haunting me in my dreams
Haunting me in my daily life..

Sometimes i would get
These random visions
And nightmares..

That felt so real
And vivid.

Something would pull
Me down under water
In and out of the water..

I couldn't breathe
It felt like the
Air was sucked out
Of my lungs..

I tried so hard to
Break free but
It was impossible..

Sometimes it was
Hard to wake up.

I couldn't tell the difference
Between reality and a dream.

I couldn't tell which
Was real and which one
Was a hallucination.

Sometimes something
Would push me off the cliff..

And i'd find myself..

Falling and falling..

And falling...

To my death..

And then i would wake up
Screaming, sweating
And yelling..

Some called me crazy
Telling me that
I'm hallucinating ..

They covered my body
In white cloth
And tied me up with a belt..

Then they sent me in
An asylum
And shoved pills
Inside my throat..

Hoping that
They can cure me..

Hoping that
they can get rid
Of this illness..

But i can still hear
Them...

I can feel their touch..

I'm not hallucinating..

I'm not crazy..

They are the crazy ones..

That made me this way..

They are the ones
That drove me to the edge..

They were the real
Monsters..

Not me..

They made me
Crazy..

It's all their fault.

All their fault..
#horror  #shortstory  #nightmare 
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Chapter 5 of The Culling of Casimir
Written by Harlequin in portal Fantasy

Chapter 5: Rogues

    “Where are you off to?” Lady Elise asked me, barely looking up from her book at the empty dining table in the main hall. Her voice attempted to reach the height of the ceilings in search of an echo, but fell instead softly between us.

    “You would make a good thief, Lady Elise, do you know that?” I asked her, inspiring a mischievous look.

    “Perhaps I already am one. But why in the stars would you say such a thing? Coming from you, I expect it was meant as a compliment.”

    “Because I hardly noticed you were there. Otherwise, I would have surely given you a farewell before I left. I hope I didn’t appear rude to you. And, indeed, it was intended as such. A good thief has to be talented in many things, but silence is imperative, and that is quite the precious quality.”

    “Consider yourself forgiven by the high court, jester, saved by your flattery. Our verdict is thus: your head shall remain affixed to your shoulders.”

    “Thank you, Lady Elise.” I bowed deeply. “Now that you have relieved my soul of its heavy burdens, I must be going,” I insisted.

    “Now, now, Casimir. You still haven’t answered my question. Where exactly it is you are going.” She closed her book.

    I watched her onyx eyes, our silhouettes cast across the floor by broad sheathes of light cutting through the towering windows of the entrance hall, where the throne, and all other chairs besides hers, sat empty. “Your curiosity is the kind that makes one feel cared for, did you know that? But, if you must know, our dearest William sent me on an errand, and one I intend to put off as long as possible, likely for the intent of exploring some of the inner city’s taverns or museums, depending on how the evening goes.”

    “To be drunk or to be well informed, now that is a battle we all face every day,” she laughed. “What did he send you to fetch like some cleavage-toting barmaid?”

    “Ah, you honor me. He requested a particular type of quill from one of the city’s copy houses, a kind that the scribes use there. Something about it being durable and unlike any other, apparently crafted with a metal interior that stores ink.” It unsettles me, as much as it comforts me, how deception rolls of my tongue easier than honesty.

    “Ah yes, he is quite particular when it comes to his writing instruments.”

    “Indeed. You don’t need to tell me. Well then!” I said, turning away.

    “Wait, Casimir.”

    “Hmm?”

    “Your hat.”

    “Yes? What’s wrong with it?” I fiddled with one of its bells, causing it to chime blithely.

    “You’re still wearing it. You don’t leave the castle with it, do you?”

    “Of course I do. Everyday, in fact. Why shouldn’t I? It keeps my head warm.”

Her face pinched together in thought, as if I was an enigma beyond her fathoming. I arched an eyebrow at her. “Won’t people think you are …”

    “Strange?” I finished for her.

    “Well, yes.”

    “Let me ask you this: is it strange for a woman to put makeup on her face every morning?”

    “No.”

    “Is it strange for men to wear lengths of cloth that serve little purpose in the summer?” I asked, grasping my half-cloak as I did.

    “No, not at all. You look rather dashing with one.”

    “I’m forced to agree. And still, is it strange for armies to stand opposite one another, and in orderly fashion, charge and hack into one another into they’re a sopping mound of flesh and blood?”

    She flinched a little at the depicted scene. “Well, when you—”

    “Is it strange for folks to imagine that they are speaking to gods in their own heads? To eat with forks in their left hand when it could very well be their right? To roll up a dried plant into a leaf and inhale the smoke from burning it? To cut, beat, dry, and stretch wood until it forms an object capable of emitting sound when horsehair is dragged across attached strings?”

    At last, the confusion in her face lessened. Something I always enjoyed about Lady Elise, and William for that matter, is that they had an indomitable sense of reason when logic was presented clearly. “No. No, it’s not.”

    “And why?” I asked, stepping even closer.

    “Well, because …” she paused, the confusion at last resolved, “I suppose because everyone does those things.”

    “And that is precisely the only reason why anything isn’t strange. My hat is nothing more than cloth fashioned in a manner so that three cuts of it hang beside my head. The silver on my vambraces do not enforce the leather, merely embellish it. The hilts of my daggers, painstakingly carved from the bones of some poor creature, do not add any strength to the weapons, only to their allure. Strangeness, my lady, is subjective, perpetuated only by the delusions of what a culture has deemed normal. There is nothing strange about my hat, only the people that think so.”

    “Fine! I surrender!” she laughed, then sighed as if I was missing something. “Still, Casimir, everyone will think you are a fool.”

    “In many senses, I am one. And I sincerely hope others think so.”

    “Oh?”

    “I am always Casimir, often a fool, but not always. Often, folks take one look at the hat and assume I’m mad. You’d be surprised just how much that puts me at an advantage to cutthroats,” I said with a tirelessly practiced flourish of my daggers that ended with them being sheathed almost as quickly as they were brought out. “The underestimated opponent is a deadly one, and this city, if you hadn’t noticed, is rife with men of ill intent. Many blessings, Lady Elise.” I grasped the end of my cloak and flared it as I whirled towards the colossal doors of the Foxfeather Castle, rather pleased with myself.

    Two guards stood at either end of it. The one on the left nodded at me after I did the same. “Casimir,” Hamor, the one on the right, said with a nod. “Looking ridiculous as ever,” he muttered beneath his breath. I noted the insult but said nothing, humming as I strolled out into the wintry air. Perhaps one day I will return the favor.

    Soft winds breathed snow onto the two gates beneath Nocturos’ gaping, stone arms, the white flakes on his cowl fighting to layer themselves while the violet flame of his insignia melted them, suspended above his head, rotating slowly.

    “Spare a coin?” a child asked me as I strode through the Northern Square. He was no taller than my waist. His practiced expression of sorrow, the limp in his leg, and the crutch he used to support his weight, was all too conspicuous.

    I took scarcely a moment to turn and look at him, offering not a coin but a grin. “Maybe next time, if you work harder on your theatrics.”

    “Hmph. Prick.”

    I knew far better than to play into his scheme, likely resulting with some men waiting for the child’s haul at the day’s end. In all likelihood, more than half of Portsworth’s beggars worked as a network that brought in more coin in one day than an honest business did in several.

    The child scampered away towards a street dwindling with late evening strollers, his broken leg miraculously healed. 

    In quivering winds, phantom fingers of snow and frost swirled around my feet, sweeping across the even cobblestone of the nearly empty square that bathed in the flame's violet hue. “In the City of Thieves, nothing is as it seems,” I mumbled to the air. I wondered what I would do if the man William sent me to trade with had no interest in more wealth. Would I have to fight him, kill him for what William needed?

    “You’re right, it never is,” a voice said behind me.

    I whipped my head around, hand already on the handle of my dagger. “What—”

    “And that child was no poor actor. In fact, he’s quite talented," he said with a laugh. "It’s difficult to pretend to be someone pretending to be someone. Rest assured, my friend. He got exactly what he wanted.”

    The young man who had appeared from behind Nocturos’ statue was dressed entirely in black. The high collar of his tunic rested neatly beneath a heavy cowl that obscured his face. He had a single, leather spaulder on his right arm and a cloak that draped the other, falling to his ankles in a slanted cut that rose short on his back. Both of his knee-high boots had a spare dirk strapped to the ankle, though I doubt he used them, because his belt had more than just a few, and another slew of them were strapped to the rugged cuirass over his tunic. Judging by the size of them, they were meant for throwing.

    I wanted to ask him who he was, but his observation panicked me. “What do you mean?”

    “You saw the boy, but did you spot the young girl before she snuck down the side street to your right? She was hiding behind that bench, right there, before the other one got your attention.”

    “What did she take?”

    He just laughed, the lower half of his face obscured by a black mask. Only his eyes, charcoal with flecks of white, showed beneath his hood, while a few locks of black hair strayed from within. “Am I assuming too much in saying you don’t have time to ask me?”

I cursed and ran away off towards the street he indicated, startling a couple who were were teetering and laughing outside of a raucous tavern at the corner. Scrutinizing the curve of the walkways ahead, I found little else besides quiet shops closing for the evening, and faerie lamps that illuminated the fog swirling low in the street. Winds picked up and howled at me. When I looked behind me, the stranger was leaning back against Nocturos’ statue. He jerked his head to the left as he twirled a blade around his finger.

    Turning into the alleyway besides the tavern, I spotted a girl crouched over my coin pouch, counting its contents. With what little light the moon leaked into the darkened passage, her blonde hair gleamed and glittered with snow.

    With a surreptitious tread, careful enough not to jostle the bells of my hat, I closed the distance between us, her attention all too transfixed by the small fortune in her hands to notice me. It was the sum that William had given me to retrieve something of importance that evening. Getting closer, I could see the now severed ends of the chords that previously attached the pouch to my belt, ones she had cut so deftly, I hadn’t noticed the movement.

    “I believe you have something of mine,” I said, now that I was close enough to grab her if she tried to run. And she did, only her mind ran faster than her feet, and she tripped onto her back. The coins scattered, danced about and trickled into the cracks of the cobblestone. By then, she was too surprised to move, perhaps because no pursuer of hers ever thought to approach gently, rather shout for the city watch or aid as they chased frantically.

    I outstretched my hand towards her. “No, this isn’t a trick, even if you played one on me. It was a good one, I must admit. But I’m not angry,” I replied to the suspicion in her eyes.

    Warily, her small hand grasped mine. She rose to her feet, oddly unashamed and all too willing to meet my gaze with eyes that shone a bold turquoise, fearless and cold in a body that should know only frivolity in all its frailness.

    “You are quite the bandit,” I informed her as I bent to collect the pieces. “In truth, you did your job well enough. I wouldn’t have noticed you if luck hadn’t been in my favor. For that, I suppose, you deserve some compensation.” I picked up one of the silver pieces, a bulfur, the equivalent of ten evenings at a dingy inn or triple as many meals.

    Much like Lady Elise when I riddled her with questions, the child’s face contorted with confusion as the silver piece beckoned her hand. Her silence said little, but the bruises on her face spoke more than I needed to hear.

    “I won’t hurt you. Take it.”

    When the child gave a meek grin, at first, I felt pangs of pity swell in me. She didn’t necessarily choose this life, no more than any child chose their parents. Portsworth had a way of breeding thieves from its orphans, teaching them wit and guile instead of manners, quiet footsteps in lieu of curtsies, pickpocketing and lock picking where, in a more fortunate start, reading or the basics of lesser casting might’ve taken their place.

    Her grin turned to the sharp edges of a smirk, her eyes flickered to something behind me. And all at once, she snatched the coin from my hand, I turned my head, reached for my dagger, but far too late, as someone’s knuckles slammed into my cheek.

    The child ran off as more blows descended, before I could even look to see who the accomplices were, or how many were kicking me into the wall of the alleyway.

    “Fuckin’ fool, he is,” a hoarse voice remarked with a snarling cackle. I could hardly disagree with him.

    “Highborn, by the looks of it. But that Stella’s a charmer, ain’t she?” the other replied. “Always picks the right ones.”

    “Aye, she does. Give it a few years, she’ll be a good fuck.”

    Briefly, they argued over who would be the first to take advantage of her. I made an attempt to get to my feet, but was kicked harder against the wall, the point and heels of their leather soles became sharp, staccato beats of pain before they finally subsided.

    Squinting through an eye already swirling with blood, I spotted two pairs of feet standing over me, before one boot connected with my jaw and sent the blood from my nose spattering across the silver pieces on the ground. My eyes fluttered as my consciousness dared to do the same, but I latched onto the pain and remained there, inert yet seething.

    I played dead, breathing through the iron in my throat, the throbbing in my skull where one of their rings broke the flesh, where needles of bright pain sprang each time a snowflake touched the wound, where the rage boiled vivid images of me leaving their corpses for the city watch to find the next morning.

    “Think he’s dead?” the other asked, his voice a higher pitch and trembling with the shaky laughter of a hyena.

    “Nah, just out. Search ‘im, quick like. I’ll grab the purse.”

    The scrawnier one’s fingers groped all over my clothes. He went through the pockets of my trousers, filched a coin, a quill. He slipped the ring off my thumb, unhooked the Foxfeather signet that clasped my cloak, before digging into the satchel strapped to my left leg.

    “The fuck’s all this?” he asked, finding the dual-glass vials I used for performances. If the glass separating the two chemicals inside broke, it activated thick clouds of smoke. He got up from his crouched position to show the other one. “You think it’s for drinkin’?”

    “Who cares? Grab them daggers and let’s get out of here. I got his purse a’ready.”

    I heard the pop of the vial’s tiny cork, the inhalation of his nostrils. “Smells good enough.”

    “Well don’t just drink it!” The gruff one shouted as he slapped the concoction out of his hands before his lips touched it. “It could be—”

    Glass shattered. The components sizzled, simmered then snapped with a loud burst of fumes. I shot up from the ground, grabbed the smaller one’s head and rammed it into the wall, kneeing his jaw before he hit the ground. His skull cracked louder than the vial’s eruption as he fell down groaning.

    Fury compelled my hand, an instinct beyond quelling, a movement irrepressible as chance became consequence. I looked up from my shaking fist, now gripping a dagger hilt-deep in the man’s back, trembling from the last, feeble throbs of his impaled heart. I stood up and flicked the excess substance off the blade before drawing its pair. “It’s one thing to beat someone senseless before robbing them,” I told the remaining thug as I brandished my blades and stretched my arms. “Quite another, to raise a child to be your whore.” Blood continued pouring from my nose. I breathed raggedly through my mouth, swallowing gulps of it periodically.

    “Easy now,” the bigger one said, now holding a studded cudgel. “Meant nothin’ by it. Just the way the world is, you see.”

    Having now been taught the painful way that there were not just two, but three layers to this scheme, I looked behind me, but found the end of the alleyway empty. I returned my gaze to the silhouette of the bandit, growing ever more distorted as the smoke thickened around us.

    “Give back what you took and I won’t kill you,” I threatened and spat my blood at his feet. “Even if you deserve far worse.”

    His body shook with another set of cough-ridden cackles. He was far larger than me and built better, his muscles roped with thick veins from arduous labor. “How about you hand over what I haven’t already got, and you walk away? Luck can only get fools like you so far.”

    Now that it was missing its clasp, my cloak slid to the ground. I belted my satchel shut before anymore of its contents could spill out, preparing myself as I did. The stinging in my head became harsher as blood beat faster through me.

    “What’ll it be, then?”

    “Luck certainly played her role back there,” I admitted, nodding towards the body, where crimson was spreading greedily through the snow, steam rising up in tendrils to join the fog. “But I wouldn’t bet she had any favors in store for either of us, now. And oh,” I laughed, “I would like to see what that’s like. Care to humor me?”

    “Gladly,” the thug replied. He advanced, thrashing his cudgel so wildly that it collided against the walls of the passage. Stone particles and dust sprang out of the impacts that left heavy indents behind. Each time, images of the cudgel bashing my skull flashed in my mind. I shook them out and retreated while he advanced, the spiked edges of the cudgel nearing me as his slow push turned into a charge.

    His movements seemed sporadic, but contained a rhythm: left, right, down, left, right, the beat of an idiot.

    As I neared the end of the passage, as snowdrift fell over our heads, as his crude attacks reached a frenzy of arrogance, I picked his next swing in the rhythm and made a motion as if to parry a strike to the left while he raised the cudgel for a downswing. Triumph flashed in his expression as he caught the feigned mistake. Enthused, he continued the cudgel’s arc for my head.

    I twisted my body, and with a sudden thrust, impaled his wrist with the dagger in my right hand, snarling as the blade sprang out the other end, just as delighted as I was to breathe the air after his blood was drawn.

    His hand spasmed as my steel played with their ligaments. The cudgel dropped to the floor in a defeated clatter. Before he could retaliate with his free hand, I twisted his arm down, a puppeteer of his flesh and screams. “Meant nothin’ by it,” I told him as my other blade thrusted between his ribs and found his heart, twisting. “Just the way the world is, you see.”

    Surprise, a gnarled anguish in his eyes, received only malice from mine as he staggered to the wall, his blood now mingled with mine on the ground; there, a quiet communion of murderer and victim, of the ardent and the pathetic, mixing in sworn shades of the same hue.

    “Yora kemmin dek,” I muttered to the corpse as it slid to the ground. I collected my purse and placed it in my satchel.

    “Is that how you say ‘Good riddance’ where you come from?” a now familiar voice asked behind me as his shadow drew closer. I hadn’t even heard his feet approach, his tread snowfall on the ground. Despite having just killed two people, I chuckled, figuring that if he was apart of the triple ploy, he would have already done the same to me by now.

    “How the Qalmorian Moon-elves do, at least. Though it is a little harsher, I would say.” I got to my feet and took in his appearance, surprised to find he’d drawn back his hood and mask, and beyond that, that I was comforted by his presence. He outstretched my cloak to me, the clasp on it already refastened.

    His face contained the rushed maturity of a difficult upbringing, not perturbed by the past, but illuminated by the challenges overcome. His dark eyes were considerably brighter now, as he smiled at me. He looked just a year or two older than myself at the time: seventeen, with a soft, rounded nose and lips set in a tight line when they weren’t smirking.

    I thanked him and drew the black-and-red motley cloak back over my shoulder. “Harsher?” he asked.

    “Loosely translated, it means ‘You met your intended end’ or rather, the only one that was fitting for someone like you. It’s not exactly something you say for your wife’s eulogy.”

    The stranger snickered and knelt to search one of the bodies before he tossed up a smaller, patched coin purse and tucked it in his sleeve. “Fitting, indeed. Can’t say that I pity them.”

    “Nobody should. You’ve a name?” I wiped the blood spattered on my face, both mine and the bandit’s, on my cloak, before doing the same for my blades. The frozen air helped to stop the steady trickle coming from my nose.

    “Oh, many, though I am assuming you want the true one. I must admit, I watched all of this unfold. I just couldn’t help myself. I was curious. So I suppose I owe you that much, at least.”

    “And a drink,” I added quickly. “At least two, one for each of them. I’ll even do you a favor and pretend like you didn’t help in the slightest with that tip you gave me back there.”

    The stranger laughed, already privy to my humor and all too willing to play along. “Nobody owes anybody anything, thus possession,” he replied as he produced the rest of my belongings in his other hand, “is simply an illusion. Danger, on the other hand, is quite real, and in this instance, is taking form in the guards now heading towards the screams that our friend here made. Shall we continue this elsewhere?”

    The frozen air had embraced my silver ring, but it felt soothing to have it returned to my thumb, all the same. “I know just the place.” It was the only place, in fact, that I had intended to be that night.

    “Lead away.”

    I snatched the quill and coin from his hand, and together we abandoned the scene, heading east of the Northern Square, where the rest of my evening’s business lay waiting. Portsworth might have lacked virtue, but narrow crevices and tunnels, it did not. There was a reason why thievery was rampant here. The sheer size and twisting passages of the city made losing pursuers easy.

                                                                ~ ~

    Both of us pretending we were less winded than we were when we stopped running, now standing outside The Craven Phantom, a gambling house that only became louder as the night deepened and the snow thickened around us. The fogged windows glowed from the candlelight inside, the myriad silhouettes within emitted laughter, shouts and insults muffled through the wall. A heavy thud shook the establishment after someone went down to a pair of flying fists.

    “Now, about that name."

    “Drinks first. It’s not every night that I'm free to roam like this, and I intend to make the most of it. I just watched someone fight for their life, so it can only get worse from here.”

    “Oh, I wouldn’t be so sure of that,” I said, still smiling despite the steady hammer beating my head from where I’d been pummeled. “But I’m not one to argue. After you.”

    Before the winds could freeze us to our leathers, we let ourselves into the tavern, immediately overwhelmed by the stench of sweat, mead, nitskel and unfavorable chances over dice boards, cards, and backhanded insults. Bones made up the sconces and candlesticks inside, the most impressive piece being a gently swinging chandelier that hung beneath the rafters, where eight skulls adorned each point, fashioned to look down upon the patrons with hanging jaws. Some human, some not. We made our way through the most boisterous and drunk, the patrons too entrenched in their current dealings to pay us more than a glance. I scanned the crowd, spotting a woman with an eyepatch and a glare in her working eye as she observed the expressions of the men sitting around the same table, all of them holding cards before a stack of coins.

    “What are you looking for?” the stranger asked me, his gaze just as watchful.

    “Nothing that’s in this room,” I muttered. “Follow me.”

    We ascended cracked and groaning stairs to the second floor. Upstairs, the noise from below still bellowed after us, but more tables were empty, and for the ones that weren’t, hushed conversations rolled over closely-clutched drinks and wary eyes. At the far corner of the room, a man with cropped hair was leaning back in a chair in front of two others and a woman, laughing as he swigged from a carafe. One of his fingers glinted from a silver Foxfeather signet—William's signet, the only one, for that matter. The collars of his beaten, leather coat rose obnoxiously high, a wide breadth of his head, which was covered in all manner of scars.

    “It appears I haven’t used all of my evening’s luck up, yet,” I said as we sat down at an empty table.

    “Something tells me you’re not the type of person that runs out of it.”

    “All is fortune in the eyes of chaos.”

    When one of the servers took their queue and followed us upstairs, the stranger payed for gin and brandy before I could insist. Not that it was all too burdensome, considering he used the coin from one of the corpses. I kept my eye on the man in the corner as the first beginnings of our companionship arose. The unexpected friendship that sparked between us was nothing short of odd, but I had a taste for the unexpected and the happenstance, especially when it came to the bonds of kindred souls.

    “I do feel guilty for not stepping in,” he admitted after a short silence. “But you should understand that someone like me can’t afford to make allies of fickle people. Watching you deal with those rats proved more than just a few things to me. Despite your inability to see that the boy was only a ruse, I thought you could handle yourself with the others. Luckily, you did. And now, what was an innocent evening of people watching turned into this,” he gestured between us, “and I don’t take my friends lightly.”

    “Neither do I. If it weren’t for you, I would have lost that purse, so let’s call it fair. But what if I hadn’t handled myself?” I took off my hat, not surprised to find more than a little blood on the inside of it. I prodded the wounds on my head to judge their seriousness.

    He scoffed. “Don’t be a fool. I would have dashed in there like a golden legend, of course.”

    Our words stopped as the server returned with two small, ivory cups. He took the brandy.  

    “This golden legend could have saved my head from three welts, and that’s not even mentioning the bruises on my body.”

    “Ah well, I had to know you were worth your mettle. Ladies love black eyes, in any case. And that one’s going to be a monster,” he said, pointing towards my left socket.

    We clinked the cups and drank. With a trailing finger, I admired the cup’s surface, heavily engraved in filigree. 

    “Shamus Dodge,” he told me after we swallowed back the liquor. After the initial bite, the smooth texture left minty notes in the back of my throat, to an almost bittersweet finish before leaving a pleasant burn that chilled and trailed down my stomach. 

    “Casimir Foxfeather.”

    He finished his second sip in sputtering coughs, hearing my second name. “Gods, I thought you had stolen that clasp and ring.” His expression flashed, seemingly without control, to confused frustration. “So you’re a highborn then? And here I thought the hat, the motley cloak, it was all some elaborate mockery of royalty! Gods!”

    It had been a long while since I laughed as hard, the irony much sweeter than the ale. “No and yes. I wasn’t born into the Foxfeathers. I was raised in a small town north of Westrun, long, long before I was brought into their court. I took the second name because, well, pasts are meant to be left with the dead. Names have a way of erasing things.”

    “Fair enough. So then, you have no royal blood in you?”

    “If I did, it would come as a surprise to me, and not a welcome one.”

    At that, the urge Shamus had turn the table over and run seemed to leave, but he quickly lost himself to thought as if the question of my trust lay there in the stained wood. “Yet you live with them, eat and drink with them.”

    “I am one of the King’s advisors, and entertainers, but gods know I prefer the latter. Why should a fool have to lend his opinion on warfare or trade treaties? The intricacies of royal politics befuddle me.”

    “Wait!” Shamus exclaimed and grasped my arm. The white flecks in his eyes seemed to ignite, burning up any judgements he might’ve had of me. “You are that Casimir? You were that acrobat in this year’s Hallow’s Eve Reverie performance? The second act, was it?”

    “At your service,” I said, then wiped a less charming, lingering trail of blood coming from one of my nostrils.

    “Gods, you were magnificent! How did you summon all those illusions? You made it appear as if there were dozens of you, all at once. And then …” he trailed off, shaking his head as his words faltered to describe the vivid conjurations of that night’s performance. “That was three bulfurs well spent, my friend. How did you do it?”

    “You think I’ll unveil my secrets to you only after one drink? Tsk, tsk. You’ll have to be more cunning than that.”

    “Cunning?” Looking about the room, a roguish smile came to his lips. “You’re here for something from that man in the corner, yes?”

    “Well, I didn’t stroll out into Portsworth’s late evening to be robbed and nearly murdered, even if it was rather exciting.” I took another sip, wondering if the pains in my abdomen were from cracked or bruised ribs.

    Shamus didn't seem interested in his drink anymore. He leaned over the edge of the table. “Tell me what you’re after. I’ll retrieve it for you."

    “Just like that?” I asked, all too eager to accept his help now that the adrenaline had begun to fade, and in its absence, an even angrier ache swelled in my head, a tiredness like lead forming beneath my eyes. Simultaneously, I could leave the evening where it stood and return another time. Surely, William would understand if I had told him the story, but I had a self-destructive tendency to do things that weren’t entirely rational, especially if they came wrapped in a challenge.

    “Just like that. But,” he continued, “if I get the object, you’ll tell me the mechanics behind your illusions in that performance. In my profession, deception is gold, and you might as well be a mine.”

    The man in the corner laughed uproariously, spluttering his drink all over the table. The longer I thought about it, the more intrigued I was to see what Shamus had in mind.

“I must confess,” I told him, “I was given a rather large sum to trade for that object. Hence the small fortune I nearly lost to a child.”

    “To the worms with it. Keep the sum, the reward is in the execution. Where’s the fun if we do this the polite way?”

    “I couldn’t agree more.”

    “Now, what is it?”

    “You see the ring on his forefinger? That’s the Northern King’s signet. If that man had half a mind to do so, he could send off commands to ambassadors, tradesmen, even executioners, and stamp the wax with that seal. Luckily, he doesn’t appear to be the type that enjoys penmanship, much less speaking well. I doubt he understands that he is, at this moment, far more powerful than he ever dreamed he'd be. William has a, erhm, slight concern that one day he might just figure it out.”

    “How did he lose something so godsdamned valuable to a drunk like that?”

    “Shamus, that ‘drunk’ owns this tavern and half the brothels in Portsworth,” I whispered, careful not to look at him anymore than I already was. 

    Dumbfounded, he shook his head and pushed his drink away. “That still doesn’t explain what a highborn was doing in a place like this.”

    “William isn’t all that different from us,” I confessed. “Every now and then he puts on disguises, changes his wardrobe, and goes to lowly places like this to gamble, to drink, to laugh, to pretend like he never was a king to begin with.”

    “That’s oddly … admirable,” Shamus admitted. 

    “And probably one of his worst habits,” I grumbled. “He lost that ring while he was gambling.”

    “Less admirable!”

    “Regardless ... are you still up to the task?”

    “Stealing a king’s signet, making a fool out of some wealthy, drunk bastard, what’s not to love? Forget your secrets, I’ll do this for pleasure. You gave me a performance I could never forget, how about I return the favor?”

    "You know, I think I may at least come to forgive you for letting me get beaten bloody in that alley."

    "Oh, gods no! After tonight, you're going to thank me for it. After all, if I hadn't felt guilty, I wouldn't have bought you the drink."

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Chapter 5 of The Culling of Casimir
Written by Harlequin in portal Fantasy
Chapter 5: Rogues
    “Where are you off to?” Lady Elise asked me, barely looking up from her book at the empty dining table in the main hall. Her voice attempted to reach the height of the ceilings in search of an echo, but fell instead softly between us.
    “You would make a good thief, Lady Elise, do you know that?” I asked her, inspiring a mischievous look.
    “Perhaps I already am one. But why in the stars would you say such a thing? Coming from you, I expect it was meant as a compliment.”
    “Because I hardly noticed you were there. Otherwise, I would have surely given you a farewell before I left. I hope I didn’t appear rude to you. And, indeed, it was intended as such. A good thief has to be talented in many things, but silence is imperative, and that is quite the precious quality.”
    “Consider yourself forgiven by the high court, jester, saved by your flattery. Our verdict is thus: your head shall remain affixed to your shoulders.”
    “Thank you, Lady Elise.” I bowed deeply. “Now that you have relieved my soul of its heavy burdens, I must be going,” I insisted.
    “Now, now, Casimir. You still haven’t answered my question. Where exactly it is you are going.” She closed her book.
    I watched her onyx eyes, our silhouettes cast across the floor by broad sheathes of light cutting through the towering windows of the entrance hall, where the throne, and all other chairs besides hers, sat empty. “Your curiosity is the kind that makes one feel cared for, did you know that? But, if you must know, our dearest William sent me on an errand, and one I intend to put off as long as possible, likely for the intent of exploring some of the inner city’s taverns or museums, depending on how the evening goes.”
    “To be drunk or to be well informed, now that is a battle we all face every day,” she laughed. “What did he send you to fetch like some cleavage-toting barmaid?”
    “Ah, you honor me. He requested a particular type of quill from one of the city’s copy houses, a kind that the scribes use there. Something about it being durable and unlike any other, apparently crafted with a metal interior that stores ink.” It unsettles me, as much as it comforts me, how deception rolls of my tongue easier than honesty.
    “Ah yes, he is quite particular when it comes to his writing instruments.”
    “Indeed. You don’t need to tell me. Well then!” I said, turning away.
    “Wait, Casimir.”
    “Hmm?”
    “Your hat.”
    “Yes? What’s wrong with it?” I fiddled with one of its bells, causing it to chime blithely.
    “You’re still wearing it. You don’t leave the castle with it, do you?”
    “Of course I do. Everyday, in fact. Why shouldn’t I? It keeps my head warm.”
Her face pinched together in thought, as if I was an enigma beyond her fathoming. I arched an eyebrow at her. “Won’t people think you are …”
    “Strange?” I finished for her.
    “Well, yes.”
    “Let me ask you this: is it strange for a woman to put makeup on her face every morning?”
    “No.”
    “Is it strange for men to wear lengths of cloth that serve little purpose in the summer?” I asked, grasping my half-cloak as I did.
    “No, not at all. You look rather dashing with one.”
    “I’m forced to agree. And still, is it strange for armies to stand opposite one another, and in orderly fashion, charge and hack into one another into they’re a sopping mound of flesh and blood?”
    She flinched a little at the depicted scene. “Well, when you—”
    “Is it strange for folks to imagine that they are speaking to gods in their own heads? To eat with forks in their left hand when it could very well be their right? To roll up a dried plant into a leaf and inhale the smoke from burning it? To cut, beat, dry, and stretch wood until it forms an object capable of emitting sound when horsehair is dragged across attached strings?”
    At last, the confusion in her face lessened. Something I always enjoyed about Lady Elise, and William for that matter, is that they had an indomitable sense of reason when logic was presented clearly. “No. No, it’s not.”
    “And why?” I asked, stepping even closer.
    “Well, because …” she paused, the confusion at last resolved, “I suppose because everyone does those things.”
    “And that is precisely the only reason why anything isn’t strange. My hat is nothing more than cloth fashioned in a manner so that three cuts of it hang beside my head. The silver on my vambraces do not enforce the leather, merely embellish it. The hilts of my daggers, painstakingly carved from the bones of some poor creature, do not add any strength to the weapons, only to their allure. Strangeness, my lady, is subjective, perpetuated only by the delusions of what a culture has deemed normal. There is nothing strange about my hat, only the people that think so.”
    “Fine! I surrender!” she laughed, then sighed as if I was missing something. “Still, Casimir, everyone will think you are a fool.”
    “In many senses, I am one. And I sincerely hope others think so.”
    “Oh?”
    “I am always Casimir, often a fool, but not always. Often, folks take one look at the hat and assume I’m mad. You’d be surprised just how much that puts me at an advantage to cutthroats,” I said with a tirelessly practiced flourish of my daggers that ended with them being sheathed almost as quickly as they were brought out. “The underestimated opponent is a deadly one, and this city, if you hadn’t noticed, is rife with men of ill intent. Many blessings, Lady Elise.” I grasped the end of my cloak and flared it as I whirled towards the colossal doors of the Foxfeather Castle, rather pleased with myself.
    Two guards stood at either end of it. The one on the left nodded at me after I did the same. “Casimir,” Hamor, the one on the right, said with a nod. “Looking ridiculous as ever,” he muttered beneath his breath. I noted the insult but said nothing, humming as I strolled out into the wintry air. Perhaps one day I will return the favor.

    Soft winds breathed snow onto the two gates beneath Nocturos’ gaping, stone arms, the white flakes on his cowl fighting to layer themselves while the violet flame of his insignia melted them, suspended above his head, rotating slowly.
    “Spare a coin?” a child asked me as I strode through the Northern Square. He was no taller than my waist. His practiced expression of sorrow, the limp in his leg, and the crutch he used to support his weight, was all too conspicuous.
    I took scarcely a moment to turn and look at him, offering not a coin but a grin. “Maybe next time, if you work harder on your theatrics.”
    “Hmph. Prick.”
    I knew far better than to play into his scheme, likely resulting with some men waiting for the child’s haul at the day’s end. In all likelihood, more than half of Portsworth’s beggars worked as a network that brought in more coin in one day than an honest business did in several.
    The child scampered away towards a street dwindling with late evening strollers, his broken leg miraculously healed. 
    In quivering winds, phantom fingers of snow and frost swirled around my feet, sweeping across the even cobblestone of the nearly empty square that bathed in the flame's violet hue. “In the City of Thieves, nothing is as it seems,” I mumbled to the air. I wondered what I would do if the man William sent me to trade with had no interest in more wealth. Would I have to fight him, kill him for what William needed?
    “You’re right, it never is,” a voice said behind me.
    I whipped my head around, hand already on the handle of my dagger. “What—”
    “And that child was no poor actor. In fact, he’s quite talented," he said with a laugh. "It’s difficult to pretend to be someone pretending to be someone. Rest assured, my friend. He got exactly what he wanted.”
    The young man who had appeared from behind Nocturos’ statue was dressed entirely in black. The high collar of his tunic rested neatly beneath a heavy cowl that obscured his face. He had a single, leather spaulder on his right arm and a cloak that draped the other, falling to his ankles in a slanted cut that rose short on his back. Both of his knee-high boots had a spare dirk strapped to the ankle, though I doubt he used them, because his belt had more than just a few, and another slew of them were strapped to the rugged cuirass over his tunic. Judging by the size of them, they were meant for throwing.
    I wanted to ask him who he was, but his observation panicked me. “What do you mean?”
    “You saw the boy, but did you spot the young girl before she snuck down the side street to your right? She was hiding behind that bench, right there, before the other one got your attention.”
    “What did she take?”
    He just laughed, the lower half of his face obscured by a black mask. Only his eyes, charcoal with flecks of white, showed beneath his hood, while a few locks of black hair strayed from within. “Am I assuming too much in saying you don’t have time to ask me?”
I cursed and ran away off towards the street he indicated, startling a couple who were were teetering and laughing outside of a raucous tavern at the corner. Scrutinizing the curve of the walkways ahead, I found little else besides quiet shops closing for the evening, and faerie lamps that illuminated the fog swirling low in the street. Winds picked up and howled at me. When I looked behind me, the stranger was leaning back against Nocturos’ statue. He jerked his head to the left as he twirled a blade around his finger.
    Turning into the alleyway besides the tavern, I spotted a girl crouched over my coin pouch, counting its contents. With what little light the moon leaked into the darkened passage, her blonde hair gleamed and glittered with snow.
    With a surreptitious tread, careful enough not to jostle the bells of my hat, I closed the distance between us, her attention all too transfixed by the small fortune in her hands to notice me. It was the sum that William had given me to retrieve something of importance that evening. Getting closer, I could see the now severed ends of the chords that previously attached the pouch to my belt, ones she had cut so deftly, I hadn’t noticed the movement.
    “I believe you have something of mine,” I said, now that I was close enough to grab her if she tried to run. And she did, only her mind ran faster than her feet, and she tripped onto her back. The coins scattered, danced about and trickled into the cracks of the cobblestone. By then, she was too surprised to move, perhaps because no pursuer of hers ever thought to approach gently, rather shout for the city watch or aid as they chased frantically.
    I outstretched my hand towards her. “No, this isn’t a trick, even if you played one on me. It was a good one, I must admit. But I’m not angry,” I replied to the suspicion in her eyes.
    Warily, her small hand grasped mine. She rose to her feet, oddly unashamed and all too willing to meet my gaze with eyes that shone a bold turquoise, fearless and cold in a body that should know only frivolity in all its frailness.
    “You are quite the bandit,” I informed her as I bent to collect the pieces. “In truth, you did your job well enough. I wouldn’t have noticed you if luck hadn’t been in my favor. For that, I suppose, you deserve some compensation.” I picked up one of the silver pieces, a bulfur, the equivalent of ten evenings at a dingy inn or triple as many meals.
    Much like Lady Elise when I riddled her with questions, the child’s face contorted with confusion as the silver piece beckoned her hand. Her silence said little, but the bruises on her face spoke more than I needed to hear.
    “I won’t hurt you. Take it.”
    When the child gave a meek grin, at first, I felt pangs of pity swell in me. She didn’t necessarily choose this life, no more than any child chose their parents. Portsworth had a way of breeding thieves from its orphans, teaching them wit and guile instead of manners, quiet footsteps in lieu of curtsies, pickpocketing and lock picking where, in a more fortunate start, reading or the basics of lesser casting might’ve taken their place.
    Her grin turned to the sharp edges of a smirk, her eyes flickered to something behind me. And all at once, she snatched the coin from my hand, I turned my head, reached for my dagger, but far too late, as someone’s knuckles slammed into my cheek.
    The child ran off as more blows descended, before I could even look to see who the accomplices were, or how many were kicking me into the wall of the alleyway.
    “Fuckin’ fool, he is,” a hoarse voice remarked with a snarling cackle. I could hardly disagree with him.
    “Highborn, by the looks of it. But that Stella’s a charmer, ain’t she?” the other replied. “Always picks the right ones.”
    “Aye, she does. Give it a few years, she’ll be a good fuck.”
    Briefly, they argued over who would be the first to take advantage of her. I made an attempt to get to my feet, but was kicked harder against the wall, the point and heels of their leather soles became sharp, staccato beats of pain before they finally subsided.
    Squinting through an eye already swirling with blood, I spotted two pairs of feet standing over me, before one boot connected with my jaw and sent the blood from my nose spattering across the silver pieces on the ground. My eyes fluttered as my consciousness dared to do the same, but I latched onto the pain and remained there, inert yet seething.
    I played dead, breathing through the iron in my throat, the throbbing in my skull where one of their rings broke the flesh, where needles of bright pain sprang each time a snowflake touched the wound, where the rage boiled vivid images of me leaving their corpses for the city watch to find the next morning.
    “Think he’s dead?” the other asked, his voice a higher pitch and trembling with the shaky laughter of a hyena.
    “Nah, just out. Search ‘im, quick like. I’ll grab the purse.”
    The scrawnier one’s fingers groped all over my clothes. He went through the pockets of my trousers, filched a coin, a quill. He slipped the ring off my thumb, unhooked the Foxfeather signet that clasped my cloak, before digging into the satchel strapped to my left leg.
    “The fuck’s all this?” he asked, finding the dual-glass vials I used for performances. If the glass separating the two chemicals inside broke, it activated thick clouds of smoke. He got up from his crouched position to show the other one. “You think it’s for drinkin’?”
    “Who cares? Grab them daggers and let’s get out of here. I got his purse a’ready.”
    I heard the pop of the vial’s tiny cork, the inhalation of his nostrils. “Smells good enough.”
    “Well don’t just drink it!” The gruff one shouted as he slapped the concoction out of his hands before his lips touched it. “It could be—”
    Glass shattered. The components sizzled, simmered then snapped with a loud burst of fumes. I shot up from the ground, grabbed the smaller one’s head and rammed it into the wall, kneeing his jaw before he hit the ground. His skull cracked louder than the vial’s eruption as he fell down groaning.
    Fury compelled my hand, an instinct beyond quelling, a movement irrepressible as chance became consequence. I looked up from my shaking fist, now gripping a dagger hilt-deep in the man’s back, trembling from the last, feeble throbs of his impaled heart. I stood up and flicked the excess substance off the blade before drawing its pair. “It’s one thing to beat someone senseless before robbing them,” I told the remaining thug as I brandished my blades and stretched my arms. “Quite another, to raise a child to be your whore.” Blood continued pouring from my nose. I breathed raggedly through my mouth, swallowing gulps of it periodically.
    “Easy now,” the bigger one said, now holding a studded cudgel. “Meant nothin’ by it. Just the way the world is, you see.”
    Having now been taught the painful way that there were not just two, but three layers to this scheme, I looked behind me, but found the end of the alleyway empty. I returned my gaze to the silhouette of the bandit, growing ever more distorted as the smoke thickened around us.
    “Give back what you took and I won’t kill you,” I threatened and spat my blood at his feet. “Even if you deserve far worse.”
    His body shook with another set of cough-ridden cackles. He was far larger than me and built better, his muscles roped with thick veins from arduous labor. “How about you hand over what I haven’t already got, and you walk away? Luck can only get fools like you so far.”
    Now that it was missing its clasp, my cloak slid to the ground. I belted my satchel shut before anymore of its contents could spill out, preparing myself as I did. The stinging in my head became harsher as blood beat faster through me.
    “What’ll it be, then?”
    “Luck certainly played her role back there,” I admitted, nodding towards the body, where crimson was spreading greedily through the snow, steam rising up in tendrils to join the fog. “But I wouldn’t bet she had any favors in store for either of us, now. And oh,” I laughed, “I would like to see what that’s like. Care to humor me?”
    “Gladly,” the thug replied. He advanced, thrashing his cudgel so wildly that it collided against the walls of the passage. Stone particles and dust sprang out of the impacts that left heavy indents behind. Each time, images of the cudgel bashing my skull flashed in my mind. I shook them out and retreated while he advanced, the spiked edges of the cudgel nearing me as his slow push turned into a charge.
    His movements seemed sporadic, but contained a rhythm: left, right, down, left, right, the beat of an idiot.
    As I neared the end of the passage, as snowdrift fell over our heads, as his crude attacks reached a frenzy of arrogance, I picked his next swing in the rhythm and made a motion as if to parry a strike to the left while he raised the cudgel for a downswing. Triumph flashed in his expression as he caught the feigned mistake. Enthused, he continued the cudgel’s arc for my head.
    I twisted my body, and with a sudden thrust, impaled his wrist with the dagger in my right hand, snarling as the blade sprang out the other end, just as delighted as I was to breathe the air after his blood was drawn.
    His hand spasmed as my steel played with their ligaments. The cudgel dropped to the floor in a defeated clatter. Before he could retaliate with his free hand, I twisted his arm down, a puppeteer of his flesh and screams. “Meant nothin’ by it,” I told him as my other blade thrusted between his ribs and found his heart, twisting. “Just the way the world is, you see.”
    Surprise, a gnarled anguish in his eyes, received only malice from mine as he staggered to the wall, his blood now mingled with mine on the ground; there, a quiet communion of murderer and victim, of the ardent and the pathetic, mixing in sworn shades of the same hue.
    “Yora kemmin dek,” I muttered to the corpse as it slid to the ground. I collected my purse and placed it in my satchel.
    “Is that how you say ‘Good riddance’ where you come from?” a now familiar voice asked behind me as his shadow drew closer. I hadn’t even heard his feet approach, his tread snowfall on the ground. Despite having just killed two people, I chuckled, figuring that if he was apart of the triple ploy, he would have already done the same to me by now.
    “How the Qalmorian Moon-elves do, at least. Though it is a little harsher, I would say.” I got to my feet and took in his appearance, surprised to find he’d drawn back his hood and mask, and beyond that, that I was comforted by his presence. He outstretched my cloak to me, the clasp on it already refastened.
    His face contained the rushed maturity of a difficult upbringing, not perturbed by the past, but illuminated by the challenges overcome. His dark eyes were considerably brighter now, as he smiled at me. He looked just a year or two older than myself at the time: seventeen, with a soft, rounded nose and lips set in a tight line when they weren’t smirking.
    I thanked him and drew the black-and-red motley cloak back over my shoulder. “Harsher?” he asked.
    “Loosely translated, it means ‘You met your intended end’ or rather, the only one that was fitting for someone like you. It’s not exactly something you say for your wife’s eulogy.”
    The stranger snickered and knelt to search one of the bodies before he tossed up a smaller, patched coin purse and tucked it in his sleeve. “Fitting, indeed. Can’t say that I pity them.”
    “Nobody should. You’ve a name?” I wiped the blood spattered on my face, both mine and the bandit’s, on my cloak, before doing the same for my blades. The frozen air helped to stop the steady trickle coming from my nose.
    “Oh, many, though I am assuming you want the true one. I must admit, I watched all of this unfold. I just couldn’t help myself. I was curious. So I suppose I owe you that much, at least.”
    “And a drink,” I added quickly. “At least two, one for each of them. I’ll even do you a favor and pretend like you didn’t help in the slightest with that tip you gave me back there.”
    The stranger laughed, already privy to my humor and all too willing to play along. “Nobody owes anybody anything, thus possession,” he replied as he produced the rest of my belongings in his other hand, “is simply an illusion. Danger, on the other hand, is quite real, and in this instance, is taking form in the guards now heading towards the screams that our friend here made. Shall we continue this elsewhere?”
    The frozen air had embraced my silver ring, but it felt soothing to have it returned to my thumb, all the same. “I know just the place.” It was the only place, in fact, that I had intended to be that night.
    “Lead away.”
    I snatched the quill and coin from his hand, and together we abandoned the scene, heading east of the Northern Square, where the rest of my evening’s business lay waiting. Portsworth might have lacked virtue, but narrow crevices and tunnels, it did not. There was a reason why thievery was rampant here. The sheer size and twisting passages of the city made losing pursuers easy.
                                                                ~ ~
    Both of us pretending we were less winded than we were when we stopped running, now standing outside The Craven Phantom, a gambling house that only became louder as the night deepened and the snow thickened around us. The fogged windows glowed from the candlelight inside, the myriad silhouettes within emitted laughter, shouts and insults muffled through the wall. A heavy thud shook the establishment after someone went down to a pair of flying fists.
    “Now, about that name."
    “Drinks first. It’s not every night that I'm free to roam like this, and I intend to make the most of it. I just watched someone fight for their life, so it can only get worse from here.”
    “Oh, I wouldn’t be so sure of that,” I said, still smiling despite the steady hammer beating my head from where I’d been pummeled. “But I’m not one to argue. After you.”
    Before the winds could freeze us to our leathers, we let ourselves into the tavern, immediately overwhelmed by the stench of sweat, mead, nitskel and unfavorable chances over dice boards, cards, and backhanded insults. Bones made up the sconces and candlesticks inside, the most impressive piece being a gently swinging chandelier that hung beneath the rafters, where eight skulls adorned each point, fashioned to look down upon the patrons with hanging jaws. Some human, some not. We made our way through the most boisterous and drunk, the patrons too entrenched in their current dealings to pay us more than a glance. I scanned the crowd, spotting a woman with an eyepatch and a glare in her working eye as she observed the expressions of the men sitting around the same table, all of them holding cards before a stack of coins.
    “What are you looking for?” the stranger asked me, his gaze just as watchful.
    “Nothing that’s in this room,” I muttered. “Follow me.”
    We ascended cracked and groaning stairs to the second floor. Upstairs, the noise from below still bellowed after us, but more tables were empty, and for the ones that weren’t, hushed conversations rolled over closely-clutched drinks and wary eyes. At the far corner of the room, a man with cropped hair was leaning back in a chair in front of two others and a woman, laughing as he swigged from a carafe. One of his fingers glinted from a silver Foxfeather signet—William's signet, the only one, for that matter. The collars of his beaten, leather coat rose obnoxiously high, a wide breadth of his head, which was covered in all manner of scars.
    “It appears I haven’t used all of my evening’s luck up, yet,” I said as we sat down at an empty table.
    “Something tells me you’re not the type of person that runs out of it.”
    “All is fortune in the eyes of chaos.”
    When one of the servers took their queue and followed us upstairs, the stranger payed for gin and brandy before I could insist. Not that it was all too burdensome, considering he used the coin from one of the corpses. I kept my eye on the man in the corner as the first beginnings of our companionship arose. The unexpected friendship that sparked between us was nothing short of odd, but I had a taste for the unexpected and the happenstance, especially when it came to the bonds of kindred souls.
    “I do feel guilty for not stepping in,” he admitted after a short silence. “But you should understand that someone like me can’t afford to make allies of fickle people. Watching you deal with those rats proved more than just a few things to me. Despite your inability to see that the boy was only a ruse, I thought you could handle yourself with the others. Luckily, you did. And now, what was an innocent evening of people watching turned into this,” he gestured between us, “and I don’t take my friends lightly.”
    “Neither do I. If it weren’t for you, I would have lost that purse, so let’s call it fair. But what if I hadn’t handled myself?” I took off my hat, not surprised to find more than a little blood on the inside of it. I prodded the wounds on my head to judge their seriousness.
    He scoffed. “Don’t be a fool. I would have dashed in there like a golden legend, of course.”
    Our words stopped as the server returned with two small, ivory cups. He took the brandy.  
    “This golden legend could have saved my head from three welts, and that’s not even mentioning the bruises on my body.”
    “Ah well, I had to know you were worth your mettle. Ladies love black eyes, in any case. And that one’s going to be a monster,” he said, pointing towards my left socket.
    We clinked the cups and drank. With a trailing finger, I admired the cup’s surface, heavily engraved in filigree. 
    “Shamus Dodge,” he told me after we swallowed back the liquor. After the initial bite, the smooth texture left minty notes in the back of my throat, to an almost bittersweet finish before leaving a pleasant burn that chilled and trailed down my stomach. 
    “Casimir Foxfeather.”
    He finished his second sip in sputtering coughs, hearing my second name. “Gods, I thought you had stolen that clasp and ring.” His expression flashed, seemingly without control, to confused frustration. “So you’re a highborn then? And here I thought the hat, the motley cloak, it was all some elaborate mockery of royalty! Gods!”
    It had been a long while since I laughed as hard, the irony much sweeter than the ale. “No and yes. I wasn’t born into the Foxfeathers. I was raised in a small town north of Westrun, long, long before I was brought into their court. I took the second name because, well, pasts are meant to be left with the dead. Names have a way of erasing things.”
    “Fair enough. So then, you have no royal blood in you?”
    “If I did, it would come as a surprise to me, and not a welcome one.”
    At that, the urge Shamus had turn the table over and run seemed to leave, but he quickly lost himself to thought as if the question of my trust lay there in the stained wood. “Yet you live with them, eat and drink with them.”
    “I am one of the King’s advisors, and entertainers, but gods know I prefer the latter. Why should a fool have to lend his opinion on warfare or trade treaties? The intricacies of royal politics befuddle me.”
    “Wait!” Shamus exclaimed and grasped my arm. The white flecks in his eyes seemed to ignite, burning up any judgements he might’ve had of me. “You are that Casimir? You were that acrobat in this year’s Hallow’s Eve Reverie performance? The second act, was it?”
    “At your service,” I said, then wiped a less charming, lingering trail of blood coming from one of my nostrils.
    “Gods, you were magnificent! How did you summon all those illusions? You made it appear as if there were dozens of you, all at once. And then …” he trailed off, shaking his head as his words faltered to describe the vivid conjurations of that night’s performance. “That was three bulfurs well spent, my friend. How did you do it?”
    “You think I’ll unveil my secrets to you only after one drink? Tsk, tsk. You’ll have to be more cunning than that.”
    “Cunning?” Looking about the room, a roguish smile came to his lips. “You’re here for something from that man in the corner, yes?”
    “Well, I didn’t stroll out into Portsworth’s late evening to be robbed and nearly murdered, even if it was rather exciting.” I took another sip, wondering if the pains in my abdomen were from cracked or bruised ribs.
    Shamus didn't seem interested in his drink anymore. He leaned over the edge of the table. “Tell me what you’re after. I’ll retrieve it for you."
    “Just like that?” I asked, all too eager to accept his help now that the adrenaline had begun to fade, and in its absence, an even angrier ache swelled in my head, a tiredness like lead forming beneath my eyes. Simultaneously, I could leave the evening where it stood and return another time. Surely, William would understand if I had told him the story, but I had a self-destructive tendency to do things that weren’t entirely rational, especially if they came wrapped in a challenge.
    “Just like that. But,” he continued, “if I get the object, you’ll tell me the mechanics behind your illusions in that performance. In my profession, deception is gold, and you might as well be a mine.”
    The man in the corner laughed uproariously, spluttering his drink all over the table. The longer I thought about it, the more intrigued I was to see what Shamus had in mind.
“I must confess,” I told him, “I was given a rather large sum to trade for that object. Hence the small fortune I nearly lost to a child.”
    “To the worms with it. Keep the sum, the reward is in the execution. Where’s the fun if we do this the polite way?”
    “I couldn’t agree more.”
    “Now, what is it?”
    “You see the ring on his forefinger? That’s the Northern King’s signet. If that man had half a mind to do so, he could send off commands to ambassadors, tradesmen, even executioners, and stamp the wax with that seal. Luckily, he doesn’t appear to be the type that enjoys penmanship, much less speaking well. I doubt he understands that he is, at this moment, far more powerful than he ever dreamed he'd be. William has a, erhm, slight concern that one day he might just figure it out.”
    “How did he lose something so godsdamned valuable to a drunk like that?”
    “Shamus, that ‘drunk’ owns this tavern and half the brothels in Portsworth,” I whispered, careful not to look at him anymore than I already was. 
    Dumbfounded, he shook his head and pushed his drink away. “That still doesn’t explain what a highborn was doing in a place like this.”
    “William isn’t all that different from us,” I confessed. “Every now and then he puts on disguises, changes his wardrobe, and goes to lowly places like this to gamble, to drink, to laugh, to pretend like he never was a king to begin with.”
    “That’s oddly … admirable,” Shamus admitted. 
    “And probably one of his worst habits,” I grumbled. “He lost that ring while he was gambling.”
    “Less admirable!”
    “Regardless ... are you still up to the task?”
    “Stealing a king’s signet, making a fool out of some wealthy, drunk bastard, what’s not to love? Forget your secrets, I’ll do this for pleasure. You gave me a performance I could never forget, how about I return the favor?”
    "You know, I think I may at least come to forgive you for letting me get beaten bloody in that alley."
    "Oh, gods no! After tonight, you're going to thank me for it. After all, if I hadn't felt guilty, I wouldn't have bought you the drink."
#fantasy  #horror  #adventure  #chaos  #TCOC 
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Juice
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