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 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.

October 16

Fictober, Prompt 16 – “Not this again.”

Original fiction, fantasy-ish.

Warnings: none.


There was a knock on the door.

I stopped, set down my spoon, and buried my face in my hands.

Maybe, I thought wistfully, maybe if I don’t move they’ll think no one is home and go away.

The knocking came again, more urgently. Giving up, I wiped my hands on my apron, made sure that I had all my protective sigil bands on at wrists, ankles and neck, and headed for the door. If these people were going to turn up unannounced at all hours, then they would just have to deal with the fact that I wasn’t dressed for company.

“Not this again,” I said, hauling the door open, “whatever it is you think I can do, I can’t, and no amount of money or wheedling is going to change—”

I cut off abruptly as I saw the two young men on my doorstep. Both dark-haired, the one on the right was staring at me with wide dark eyes and a dismayed, nearly despairing expression. He was supporting his companion, who was unconscious or close to it, head rolled forward so that I couldn’t get a good look at his face.

“You’re- You’re not the artificer?” the first man whispered. “I heard…”

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October 14

Fictober, Prompt 14 – “Your information was wrong.”

Original fiction, sci-fi.

Warnings: none.


“But I thought—”

“You thought wrong.”

“But the information—”

“Your information was wrong.”

“You can’t just—”

I stopped and spun to face him. “I can,” I spat, out of patience. “I can and I will, or a lot of people are going to die.”

He shrank back, wringing his hands. “How was I supposed to know? You can’t blame me! I couldn’t have known.”

“You could have,” I said, merciless. “You could have, but you didn’t.” With that, I turned my back on him and strode purposefully for the hangar bay again.

Fortunately, someone had listened to the emergency message I’d put through scarcely half an hour ago, and my ship was already most of the way fueled. Rayen was there too, even though she should have been sleeping during this cycle. I shot her a grateful look as she handed me a half-completed pre-flight checklist and quickly looked over the first half for myself before moving on to the rest.

“Will you make it in time?” she asked. Word had spread, then, about the looming disaster. Dust and flares save us from petty bureaucrats and their delusions!  

“I think so,” I said, but couldn’t keep the grim edge out of my voice. Rayen grimaced and went to grab me basic supplies. I looked up at my Wailing Wind, just for a breath, taking in her sleek lines. She was the fastest ship on this station, and the only one that had any hope of reaching the Odyssey before they activated the faulty deep-space drive.

In a feat of coordination and effort on the part of the hangar bay team that I was going to buy them all a round of drinks for when (if) I got back, it was less than another quarter hour later that I was strapped in and running final checks.

“Smooth run,” Rayen said, clapping my shoulder once before climbing down so I could lower the canopy.

The marshallers directed me through the remaining ships and through this side of the hangar bay’s massive airlock, which whirred closed behind me much faster than usual. The doors ahead began opening almost before the inner ones were closed, also sliding open quicker than was probably good for the machinery.

We all knew someone on the Odyssey, and most of us gave a damn what happened to them.

Then the starfield yawned dark before me, the last go signal chimed through from traffic control, and I eased Wailing Wind out of the bay and just far enough from the station to not cause any damage before slamming the throttle wide open.

Stars streaked into lines of light around me, and the station fell behind into the dark.

I was going to make it, I promised everyone silently, no matter what.

October 12

Fictober, Prompt 12 – “You keep me safe.”

Original fiction.

Warnings: stalking, implied past abuse, threatened violence, monster, horror-adjacent, hopeful ending.


The man was there again.

He stared up at the house, searching the windows eagerly for any flicker of light, any sign of movement…any sign of her.

I had already warned him off twice, and slow anger coiled through me to see him here again, in my territory. He was standing just off the edge of the property that went with the house, but that was irrelevant – the human notions of property lines were not applicable to my kind, and my territory stretched far out beyond the neighborhood around us. I had chosen one of the more distant houses, set back from the street and a yard filled with mature trees, though those admittedly obscured less of the view now with half their leaves on the ground.

I contemplated the man from the shadow of one of those trees, knowing that he had not seen or sensed me yet.

Ellie had neither requested nor required any promises from me, regarding what I could or could not do to him. She had asked only for sanctuary, an honor I had not expected, even though she had known my true nature for many years now.

But, as glad as she was to rest for a time, I knew that this could not go on much longer. She had her life yet to live, and he would try to prevent that from happening. Still, her very silence on the subject made me hesitate.

Thrice, I decided, was both traditional and sufficient. I would warn him once more, and give him a little bit more incentive this time to stay away.

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October 11

Fictober, Prompt 11 – “I swear, it’s not always like this.”

Original fiction.

Warnings: none.


“Wait,” he said, stopping before I could hurry us through the next door. “Was that a real dinosaur?”

“No,” I said quickly, “No, it was not. This way.”

It was certainly a dinosaur, of course, but given its origins, one could technically debate the term “real.”

Understandably, Toshiaki did not find this especially convincing, but he let me push him along to the next room and get the door closed. The little protoceratops was pretty well settled these days, and not aggressive, but best not to chance it.

And Kanchana wasn’t overly fond of it anyway.

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October 10

Fictober, Prompt 10 – “It’s so quiet.”

Original fiction.

Warnings: horror, implied monster, implied violent death.


“And you’re sure everything’s all right? I don’t like you being out there alone,” Anna said.

I tucked my cell phone more firmly between my ear and my shoulder, thinking for probably the hundredth time that I really needed one of those little Bluetooth earpieces or something. “It’s fine, I promise. It’s so quiet, what could possibly happen? And besides,” I cut her off when I heard her take another breath to protest, “it’s not like I’m staying out here. Just stopping by the house once a day to make sure everything’s okay.” Carefully, I stepped up onto the chair and tilted the little battered tin watering can over the last of the house plants. Why I left the most difficult to reach one for last was anyone’s guess, but it always worked out that way. Probably subconscious avoidance, or something like that.

“I guess,” she agreed, sighing. “I just wish you wouldn’t go after dark.”

“Not much choice, at this point,” I muttered, then sighed myself, stepping down off the chair and dragging it back into the kitchen. “It’s getting dark so early these days, and you know I don’t get off work until six-thirty.”

“All right. Text me when you get home?”

“Sure,” I promised, and she let me hang up. “Okay,” I said to myself. “What else?”

Nothing for today, when I checked the list they had left for me. Today had been plant-watering day, and I’d brought in the newspaper and the mail, and made sure the traps were empty of mice. This house-sitting thing was pretty easy, really, mostly just a chunk of time out of my evening, and even that wasn’t a big deal for a couple of weeks. I didn’t know the Carters well, but had seen no reason to turn down their request, being one of the nearer neighbors out here; they didn’t have any pets to worry about, and were even paying me a little bit.

The house creaked and settled around me, which I was more used to now after a week. It was an older house, a farmhouse originally, though the neighboring fields were now owned by a neighboring farmer. I couldn’t remember what the Carters said they did, but it definitely wasn’t farming.

“Well, that’s it for today, then,” I told the house. Shrugging my coat back on and sliding into my shoes, I flipped out the lights near the door. There was one lamp, distant in the living room, that they had left on a timer, but that light didn’t really reach this far. Still, I hesitated.

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October 9

Fictober, Prompt 9 – “There’s no right side to this.”

Original fiction.

Warnings: threatened violence, non-graphic discussion of blood magic.


A steady stream of pleading and whimpers fell from the man’s lips as the guards threw him at my feet.

“Silence!” I snapped, and quiet descended, at least momentarily.

This was one of the men responsible for the theft. As if it was not enough that they had stolen from me in the first place, they continued to skulk around, as if waiting for more.

I paced for long minutes while my guards waited patiently, and my prisoner continued to cower. At last, I thought I could be calm enough to keep him alive. Pausing before the fire, I turned and strode back, allowing my staff to tap commandingly against the floor, the hems of my robes swirling dramatically around my feet. Since it seemed that intimidation might get me the answers I sought, then so be it.

“You have stolen from me,” I said, coming to stand before him. He flinched, deliberately bowing lower toward the floor and I sneered. “Sit up and pretend you are in possession of a spine, at least for the next five minutes.”

“What- What will happen at the end of five minutes?” He whispered, making some effort to straighten in spite of the manacles binding his wrists at his back.

“That remains to be seen.” He flinched again, and did not keep his shoulders from curling in. “Speak. Tell me why a thief dares to return to my lands.”

“I did not—”

“You wear the same colors and crest as those that did,” I cut him off. “Speak truthfully or I will not need the remainder of the five minutes to make my decision.”

“We were commanded so by the Voice!” His words now almost tripped over each other in their haste to leave his mouth. “Blood magic is forbidden, and he commanded that no such spells—”

“If it is forbidden,” I cut him off again, voice low and quiet, “then why do I find that your precious Voice also commands his men to use it? Why do I find that my spell has been taken from me to be used?”

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October 8

Fictober, Prompt 8 – “This is it, isn’t it?”

Original fiction.

Warnings: threatened murder/blood sacrifice, implied violent death (nothing graphic).


It was difficult to explain how I knew.

We were about a third of the way into the next field, walking in on the side that had been harvested already, the corn still standing tall to the left, dry with both the lack of rain and summer’s passing, rustling in the breeze. I stopped dead between one step and the next.

It was startling, to just know suddenly, like he said I would.

“Ah,” he said, sounding pleased.

I thought of the gun trained at my back – the only reason I had come this far at all – and swallowed. “This is it, isn’t it?”

“Yes. Much closer than I had hoped.” Acres of fields stretched out behind us, and then stretched on for acres and acres yet ahead, burnished in the last streaks of dying daylight from the west. To the east, a silvery glow behind the distant tree line threatened the moon’s rising.

Doubt and despair overwhelmed me. I had known, just like he said. Did that mean— Was his plan the right one after all? Should I- Should I let him sacrifice me?

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