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.

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 15

Fictober, Prompt 15 – “I like that in you.”

Original fiction, sci-fantasy/technomagic. Continuation: part one (Day 1), part two (Day 5), and part three (Day 7).

Warnings: none for this part.


I frowned at the spell on the screen in front of me, erased part of it, and rewrote it on the integration pad in front of me, the new sigils appearing on the screen. That…might work.

Laying my hand flat on the pad, I sent a pulse of energy into it to trigger the spell, then held my breath.

Nothing…nothing…

And then the screen lit up in a blaze of data.

“Yes!” I yelled, jumping out of my chair. “Finally!”

The layers and layers of monitoring spells on this planet had been nearly mind-numbing to wade through, but they had gone down to a certain point beneath the planet’s surface and then there had just been nothing. Vivi had given up two days ago, going to work on something else instead for awhile, but I had been sure there were actually more spells deeper down, and that I just needed to write the correct kind of connector spell to get them hooked into the station’s systems again.

And I had been right.

Data streamed in, too much to take in all at once, but one of the flagging spells I had set up previously started to pull pieces out for me. The composition shifted around a little bit but didn’t significantly change: silicates, iron oxides, that continuing series of weird calcium deposits, some carbon-heavy layers. None of it especially surprising in a planetary crust, but something about how it was arranged still pinged wrongly in the back of my mind.

Abruptly, the data stream stopped.

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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 13

Fictober, Prompt 13 – “The things you make me do…”

Original fiction.

Warnings: violence, brief, unsuccessful attempt at sexual assault, vaguely implied civil unrest.


It was all anyone could talk about. Every mansion, every tavern, every market was the same, ‘The Shadow Blade’ this and ‘The Shadow Blade’ that, and what would the Shadow Blade do next?

I was doubly glad that I’d been able to arrive quietly, without telling anyone about my encounter with the person calling themselves the Shadow Blade. Not that I could be sure…but the mere fact that I was alive and unharmed made a strong argument in favor of the claim.

“Oh, but you just came in from Astaba,” Madam Staralon unfortunately remembered as I was halfway through putting up her hair for a garden party later that afternoon. “Did you run into any trouble on the way? They say the Emperor’s men aren’t letting anyone out at all, but that’s obviously not the case if you’re here.”

“I did,” I admitted, keeping my eyes on the strand of hair I was carefully heating into a curl and choosing my words with equal care. “There has been some trouble in Astaba. I got here and am fine. I was glad to find work right away.”

“And in such a good salon, too!” Madam Staralon agreed. “But with your skill, it’s not surprising. Did Lady Torfel stop by? I recommended you to her.”

“She did,” I said, grateful for a change in topic, “and thank you very much for the recommendation.”

“But you say there is unrest in Astaba?” asked one of the other ladies perched nearby. “Have you heard anything of this Shadow Blade?”

“There is unrest.” I sighed internally, having hoped the other topic would stick. It was pointless to deny the unrest, even if the full extent of it wasn’t known here yet. Things were worst at the heart of the Empire, but that only encouraged other kinds of trouble in the outer lands. “I’ve heard of the Shadow Blade, but couldn’t say that I know much about them.”

That was a borderline untruth, but not quite over the line.

“One hears so many wild things, of course,” Madam Staralon put in, “but he does sound like quite the dashing hero!”

“If even half his exploits are true, I’d positively swoon over him!” agreed a third woman, seated at the next chair over. “They say he’s the most handsome man you’ll ever meet…if you can get a look under his mask!”

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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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