October 26

Fictober, Prompt 26 – “I’m sure this has never worked, ever.”

Original fiction, sci-fantasy/technomagic. Continuation: part one (Day 1), part two (Day 5), part three (Day 7), part four (Day 15), and part five (Day 22). This the sixth and final part of this story.

Warnings: monster/eldritch horror, technically suicidal ideation (characters prepared to sacrifice themselves).


Vivi and I stared at the console screen, torn between horror at what Lin’s original plan for the world-eater had been and the first kernels of hope that we might still have a chance after all.

Lin seemed to have believed that a newly hatched world-eater could be ledif you could control its nearest source of food, namely, the planetary shell that it had hatched out of.

“So, she was going to guide the remnants of the planet, via magic, to get it near enough to the Phean system worlds that it would naturally devour them next, thus enacting her revenge for…something,” Vivi summarized, voice flat.

The further writings we had found deep in Lin’s encrypted files had finally shed light on her goals, though even here she did not seem to list the specific wrongs for which she had wanted revenge.

Regardless of what they were, I could not imagine any crime for which the destruction of an entire planet would be the appropriate punishment.

We had put a stop to that much of her plan, at least. But that would only mean that some other random worlds would be devoured instead, unless we could find a way to use this to our advantage and somehow do what no one (to our or Lin’s knowledge) had ever done before: destroy a world-eater.

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October 25

Fictober, Prompt 25 – “Do you know what time it is?”

Original fiction, fantasy.

Warnings: implied but unspecified looming disaster.


The door creaked open behind me.

“Do you know what time it is?” she asked softly.

Groggily, I lifted my head from my arms, blinking in the guttering candlelight. “’m awake.”

She laughed, and I felt her hands settle on my shoulders. “That’s not what I asked.”

“Late,” I mumbled then head falling back to my arms. I had to get this spell right, or we would be in trouble—

“There’s time yet,” she reassured me, understanding my answer. “Come, get some sleep.”

I sighed, silently agreeing, but didn’t raise my head just yet. Obviously I wasn’t going to accomplish anything more without at least a few hours’ rest, but the delay rankled. We did have a little time, but…

Lifting my head again, I peered through the window as best I could.

Outside, ash was still falling.

Through the thick, clouded glass, you could almost mistake it for snow.

We had a little time, but not much.

Still, I rose with her gentle hands to guide me, and blew out what was left of the candle. The delay would be worth it if rest would actually let me accomplish something again. I followed her out into the main room and joined her in our bed. The fire was banked and low, but her warmth lingered under the covers, and she pulled me close gladly.

Fortunately, getting up had not woken me enough to set my brain racing, and I felt myself drifting off properly almost as soon as I settled against her shoulder, and even the last, niggling little thought was not enough to keep me awake.

Outside, the ash was falling.

October 24

Fictober, Prompt 24 – “Is this supposed to impress me?”

Original fiction, fantasy.

Warnings: none.


Uzela turned her great, scaled head this way and that, surveying the vault. She paced forward through the wealth we had amassed so far, her steps more careful than I would have supposed possible for a creature of her size. I paced alongside her, not liking to go far.

Not that there was anything I could do now if this went awry. I knew the risk I was taking.

“Is this supposed to impress me?” she rumbled after a few more minutes. “The halls of your ancestors—”

“Best to leave the halls of my ancestors out of this conversation, don’t you think?” I interrupted, my own eyes narrowing.

Uzela turned just enough to pin me with a golden, slit-pupiled eye. “I have little first-hand knowledge,” she said. “The hoards of others are often known to us, at least in general scope.” I wasn’t sure if I could believe that or not, but took a deep breath and let the anger over past thefts pass.

I was trying to prevent that very thing happening to us, after all.

Returning to her original question, I said, “Whether you are impressed or not is irrelevant. All I want to know is: will you do the job?”

She looked away from me again, and was quiet for long moments.

“If I were to say no, what would you do?” The golden eye turned to me again, just barely.

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October 23

Fictober, Prompt 23 – “This time, do what I say.”

Original fiction, fantasy/horror.

Warnings: monsters/gross monster corpses (no great detail).


I slashed out, separating the head of the last shuffling monster from its body. It collapsed to the ground with an unpleasant squelch. I turned a quick, full circle to make sure that it really was the last one, then flicked as much ichor off my blade as possible before sheathing it.

The suddenness of the attack had startled me, even though I should have known better. I closed my eyes, getting my instincts under control, though undoubtedly my companions would have gotten a look at my eyes and face by now.

The suspicious part of my mind wondered if the one had been trying to provoke an attack deliberately, in the hopes that I would reveal myself. I didn’t think he was that much of an idiot, or that desperate, but I couldn’t be completely sure, not having known any of these people long.

Still, they had hired me to do a job and paid fairly for it, so I would see it done.

But I’d keep my guard up while I did it.

Under control, I stalked back over to where the whole group had, fortunately, listened to my last instruction to take cover.

“Out,” I said brusquely, jerking a thumb. Terrified, stumbling, they made their way out from under the rock overhang, gaping at me and shying away from the monster remains scattered around us. The corpses would collapse fully into ichor, but not for a couple of hours yet.

“Is it now clear to all of you,” and here I turned narrowed eyes on the man who had attracted the monsters’ attention in the first place, “that I am not exaggerating the dangers here?”

They were all silent, wide-eyed…but they all nodded.

“You’re not…” one of the women started, her voice barely a whisper.

“Human? No, not as such,” I said crisply. “That has not changed the fact that you hired me to be your guide, that I intend to do my job, and that I am your only hope of making it through alive. Are we clear on these points as well?”

Nods again, all around.

“Fine,” I said. “If you do, in fact, want to make it to your destination in one piece, then this time, do what I say.”

With that, I turned and set off again, picking my way carefully through the corpses, moving slowly enough that they could match my path, if they paid attention. Once we were out on the clear path again (such as it was), I turned one last time for a headcount.

Everyone was still with me.

I hadn’t yet lost anyone getting through the Barrens, and I didn’t intend to start now.

October 22

Fictober, Prompt 22 – “No promises.”

Original fiction, sci-fantasy/technomagic. Continuation: part one (Day 1), part two (Day 5), part three (Day 7), and part four (Day 15). One more part to come after this one.

Warnings: implied monster/eldritch horror, air strike (but no people hurt).


World-eaters were supposed to be a myth.

We sent out what data we had anyway, in what we hoped was a secure beam to the nearest relay point. It would take a day or so at best to reach sector law enforcement and the trade fleet association. They would probably laugh themselves sick over it, but Vivi had agreed with me that we had to try.

While I was doing that, Vivi returned to an earlier task that we hadn’t yet succeeded at: cracking the encryption on Lin’s hidden files. It was a devilish combination of coding and magic that I was pretty sure was beyond me. “No promises,” she had muttered when she started, but Vivi was better at tricky, mixed hacking jobs – her mind worked through such problems from a different angle than mine did.

The regular seismic rumbles from…below…were getting stronger, and more frequent. Whatever we or anyone else were going to try, we had to do it soon.

I dug further into the unencrypted files, and found enough obliquely phrased information to round out what little about the world-eater myths I could remember.

World-eaters were alive, although the implication had always been that they did not fit into any of the standard categories of life that we used: animal, plant, fungus, or various microbial lifeforms. They were something else, and as such were not subject to the same restraints of life as we knew it.

They moved through space on their own, the legends said, and they ate—

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October 21

Fictober, Prompt 21 – “What did I say?”

Original fiction, dark fantasy/horror. A follow-up to this piece (Day 9).

Warnings: murder (off-screen), blood sacrifice, eldritch horrors, violent death.


I walked carefully through the ruins of the basilica, lifting my robes with one hem to keep them from the dirt and soot and rubble strewn across the floor. Fire raged elsewhere in the building, and the roof was long burnt away or caved in. Smoke obscured the overhead view, but I knew the night was overcast beyond the conflagration.

The flames had swept quickly through this part of the building, mostly stone as it was, so it was a bit more intact.

The Pact-Makers did not understand the concept of mercy.

I did not much understand it myself, anymore, time having show me too much of its results.

Sound ahead alerted me, and I quickened my step as much as possible. If I had found the one I sought at last, so much the better.

I had.

“The Voice” as his followers had worshipfully styled him for so long, was on his knees, scrabbling in the soot behind what was left of his throne, a crumbling wood and scorched metal seat. As I approached, quiet, he pulled out a large pack and nearly tore it open, desperate to look inside.

Whatever he saw relieved him, for he fastened it closed again, and then rose, pulling it on.

I thought he would bolt when he saw me, and a brief twitch of his middle-aged but charismatic features told me he wanted to. He fought the urge, however, and turned to face me, stepping out from behind the burnt throne.

“Have your demons had enough, sorceress?” he taunted. “Are you reduced to fighting your own battles now?”

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October 20

Fictober, Prompt 20 – “That’s what I’m known for.”

Original fiction. Not really fantasy, medieval-ish setting.

Warnings: stabbing, violent death.


The tavern was crowded, and noisy enough to cover such private conversations as might occur around the edges of the room. I wasn’t surprised when a hooded figure slid into the booth opposite me, but didn’t allow the newcomer to interrupt my meal. The stew on offer at this place was tasty, and their ale above average.

Sometimes I regretted the work that necessitated my constantly being on the move, but it couldn’t be helped – not in my profession.

After a few moments, the silence grew awkward for my prospective client, and he shifted in his seat, clearing his throat. The hood slipped back a bit, revealing a strong jaw below light eyes and hair. Appealing enough, I supposed, if you liked that sort of thing.

I took another bite of potato and chewed, holding his gaze calmly.

“Are you Ligart?” he asked then, voice a pleasant tenor.

I swallowed the potato, said, “I am,” and bit a piece of turnip off my knife.

“They say…” he said, trailing off suggestively. When I did not volunteer to fill in this gaping conversational hole, he reluctantly went on, “They say that you…take care of problems.”

“That’s what I’m known for,” I agreed, and speared the last piece of meat left in my bowl.

Finishing the stew took up the time he needed to gather his courage again and lean forward to say, even more quietly, “They say that you take care of problems even when they’re people.”

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October 19

Fictober, Prompt 19 – “I feel strange.”

Original fiction, fantasy-ish, horror-ish. If anyone is interested, this is the same world as this piece from Fictober19, but this piece stands alone just fine.

Warnings: non-graphic discussion of forced shapeshifting? Not much in this one.


The sound of a shift happening on the bed brought my attention back to my patient. Born human, female, twenty-seven years old, worked at a car rental office at the airport in the big city two hours from here.

And, thanks to an unfortunate encounter with a worldmagic flare on her hiking trip with friends three days ago, now a shifter.

Hearing that the shift was complete, I turned to find a human woman on the hospital bed, rather than the housecat that had been there for the last three days. She was awake as well, staring at the ceiling with wide, terrified eyes.

“Jillian?” I asked softly, and her eyes snapped to me. I smiled sympathetically. “Can you understand me?”

Slowly, she nodded.

“Good,” I said, staying seated by the computer but I finished turning the chair so that I was fully facing her. “Do you remember that you had gone hiking with friends?”

She opened her mouth, closed it, and nodded again.

“Good, that’s a good sign,” I told her encouragingly. “Have you heard of magic before?”

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October 18

Fictober, Prompt 18 – “This was not part of the plan.”

Original fiction, back on my we-need-more-dinosaurs-in-fantasy agenda.

Warnings: none? Implications that a large predator eats meat? Definitely nothing graphic.


“This was not,” I said through gritted teeth, “part of the plan.”

Above and behind me, Shufen’s laugh sounded, though I wouldn’t have thought she could hear me through the sack. “I promised to bring you with us, didn’t I?”

“This was not what I had in mind, and you know it!” I said, louder this time. All I got for the trouble was a snort of air from immediately overhead, a sudden extra swing increasing the nauseating odor of the sack, and another laugh from Shufen. I shifted, trying to ease muscles cramped from being curled up in the same position for so long. It didn’t help.

“Ah, but who will look for you here?” she asked. “As you long as you are good and stay still and quiet, they will simply think that Hong is carrying his leftovers along. You will arrive safely, as promised.”

I could not dispute that her plan would probably achieve this goal, but still muttered lowly about the stink. It was a small heavenly mercy that I could not actually see the large, sharp teeth hooked through the sack above me, for that would have been much harder to contemplate all these long hours. The big predator would not eat me, I knew (he and Shufen were strongly bonded and a good hunting team), but my conscious mind could not always completely overrule the perfectly natural instinct that it was not safe to be so close to one of Hong’s kind.

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October 17

Fictober, Prompt 17 – “I’m with you, you know that.”

Original fiction, vaguely Japanese-inspired fantasy.

Warnings: nothing graphic, but: past deliberate burning of a home, implied death.


I stood beside a rocky outcrop, looking down at the vast plain below. The rock did nothing to shelter me from the hot wind that blasted up from the bare rock and sand below, whipping my tattered clothes around me. Once vivid with blues and greens and golds, the robes were mostly gray now, frayed at the hems, and patched too many times. But I had so little left, after the fire, and I was loath to give them up, even now.

Even if I’d been willing to part with them, I wouldn’t have been able to afford much better.

The short sword at my left hip was the only thing I really had left of my family’s legacy at this point, and the only reason that I had any real recollection of what our crest was supposed to be.

Soft footfalls behind me, and then the strange, soft whoosh that was the only sound accompanying Yū’s shifting. Slightly louder steps, sandaled feet on rock as he came to stand behind me, looking out easily over my head at the army assembled below, their fires beginning to glow brighter as the sun dropped toward the horizon in a spill of blood-red light.

I waited, but the yōkai said nothing…which was its own answer. It hadn’t really been in question anyway: my enemy was below, surrounded by an army, and if any planned to stand against him before it was too late, they were not yet in evidence.

It was just me, then, me and a plan for vengeance that was as insane as it was just.

Well.

Me and Yū.

As if reading my thoughts (a talent he had never confirmed or denied), he said, “I’m with you, you know that.”

My eyes closed, trying to hold back tears at the surge of gratitude his words brought.

I still didn’t really know what I had done to attract the yōkai’s interest and support. He had found me weeping in the remnants of my burnt-out home, years ago, and stayed with me ever since. I’d done everything I could to be a good companion, of course, especially in the early years when he had kept strictly to animal forms. They had never been quite normal animal forms, and of course the fact that had shifted between them had told me of his true nature from the beginning.

I had never asked outright, and the only thing he had ever said himself on the subject was that he had existed on or near my family’s ancestral lands for a very long time. That, and his easy acceptance of my quest to see justice done against the man who had destroyed us (and so many others), were probably all the answer I would ever get…or need.

Having him at my back now was more than I could ever possibly repay him for, never mind everything else he had done for me since that terrible day. My near-worshipful thanks seemed to be all he truly wanted in return, no matter how I pressed.

“We are stronger together,” he said, and I felt the warmth of his power rise at my back. I let my own power, hard-won but at least not gained at the cost of anything I could not afford, circulate and rise to my skin in answer.

“We are stronger than you know,” Yū whispered, stepping closer, so that we were nearly touching.

I smiled, and opened my eyes. “I believe you.”

“I know. That is why.”

I nodded acceptance, of his support and of whatever would come next. Looking below, I saw that the fires were bright and numerous across the plain. The army would be settling in for the night – with no rival power to challenge them, they would have set only a standard watch.

“Come,” Yū told me, “let us show them what we can do.”

One last breath.

“Yes.”


yōkai – the closest English word is “specter,” but in Japanese this covers a whole class of supernatural entities/spirits which I feel is not reflected well in the word specter. They can often shapeshift, and range across a spectrum in terms of their potential benevolence or malevolence toward humans. The Wiki article about them seems decent.