October 6

Fictober, Prompt 6 – “Didn’t we already have this conversation?”

Original fiction.

Warnings: nothing much, a very vague, passing allusion to past abuse of a side character.


I swept into the front hall as the footman opened the door, his timing as impeccable as always. I gave him a slight, grateful nod. The chill of autumn followed me in, leaves swirling as several more people followed me in. I would have preferred to leave them outside, but my temper had not quite tipped over into outright rudeness.

Yet.

“Your Grace,” my butler bowed, stepping forward to take my cloak and gloves as other servants materialized to help my guests, uninvited though they might be.

“Thank you, Julian,” I told him, catching his eye. He would see the tension and annoyance in my own furrowed brow, but the lack of true fear would let him know that all was well enough for now. The slightest hint of tension eased from his still perfectly upright posture, and he bowed.

“If you and your guests will follow me, Your Grace, I took the liberty of having hot drinks prepared.”

“I have always envied your household staff, Duchess,” one of the hangers-on simpered as we settled into the parlor.

“Too kind,” I murmured, sipping my tea, into which Julian had kindly slipped just a little something extra. Extraordinary man. It had already occurred to him, as it should have occurred to me before now, that with the hour already so late, they would all undoubtedly have to stay the night, which meant that I would have to host them again in the morning, my least favorite time of day.

My manor was not large as such things went, and my lands were deliberately isolated. This worked well for discouraging guests in the general sort of way, but worked against me once they were already here.

At least I could probably get them all packed off to bed relatively soon, and retire to my own rooms.

“Daria,” Aled murmured, coming over to sit in the chair closest to me with his own cup, his voice lowered. “Can I please ask you to reconsider?”

“Didn’t we already have this conversation?” I asked, voice low but crisp with renewed annoyance. “I will not.”

“But the other lords…and the Temple—” He stopped as rage flashed over my face. I had myself under control a breath later, but I should not have let it happen.

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October 2

Fictober, Prompt 2 – “You have no proof.”

Original fiction.

Warnings: magical battle of sorts, non-graphic description of someone being dead.


The man clutched the scroll to his chest and looked at me as if I had just insulted all of his ancestors.

“Of course I won’t hand it over to you! It is mine, and acquired only at great trouble and cost!”

“And you didn’t stop to think about why that might be the case?” I asked him, keeping my voice even and my face calm. He had no idea what he was holding, and it was going to cause trouble for more than just him if I couldn’t stop him from using it.

“Obviously, because it confers a great boon to the user,” he huffed, as if this was obvious.

“It was stolen,” I said, losing a little bit of my temper, “out of one of the most secure magical facilities in all the known lands. I know that you know this, because that is why the thieves you hired to steal it charged you so much, and why you had so much trouble finding anyone to even attempt the theft in the first place. Has it not occurred to you that it was under such heavy guard because it doesn’t do what it claims to do, rather than because it does?”

A brief – very brief – flicker of doubt crossed his face, but then it settled into a scowl again.

“You have no proof,” he spat at me, “no proof at all of those rumors! Have you ever even seen it yourself?”

I had not, of course, looked at the scroll myself. Its rolled-up exterior was all anyone I knew had ever seen.

“No one,” I said slowly and meaningfully, “who has ever looked at that scroll is around to tell us what exactly happened to them.”

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October 25

Fictober, Prompt 25 – “I could really eat something.”

Warnings: off-screen eating of carrion? Fantasy. With dinosaurs. Because I can.

(I’m a bit late tonight, this one wanted to get away from me.)


As we got closer, it became obvious that the large mound ahead was what remained of a dead frill-horn.

Very obvious. A brief whiff made me gag, cough, and pinch my nose as soon as I could to block out even that bit of stench.

Below me, I could sense White-Eye’s opposite reaction. She lifted her head, deliberately sniffing the air.

I could really eat something, she told me hopefully.

“Okay,” I told her, “but maybe let me down here? I’m going to stay back.”

Obligingly, White-Eye bent her strong legs and lowered herself down, letting me clamber out of the minimal saddle strapped over her hips before rising and making her way towards the carcass with long strides.

I smiled fondly after her, still holding my nose, and retreated upwind. There was a small rise nearby that would give me a good vantage point on the surrounding area, so I made for that and put a simple barrier spell before settling down for a stretch and a rest. Most predators would smell White-Eye on me and were willing to respect her judgment, but there were always a few who didn’t care. More importantly, it would also temporarily stop any of the large plant-eaters, who tended to wander around without paying too much attention to what was happening down around their feet.

For a little while, I watched White-Eye eat (a somewhat terrifying process that was better viewed from a distance), but she seemed content enough, and unbothered by the smaller predators swarming the carcass. Soon, the warm afternoon sun had me yawning; we had walked most of the night and all day today. White-Eye was in no danger, and the barrier would warn me in plenty of time to do something about it if anyone approached me, so I let my eyes drift closed.

The sun hadn’t moved too much when I woke, feeling a familiar tremble in the earth from heavy footfalls. I adjusted the spell to expand and cover White-Eye as well as she lowered herself next to me, and forced myself to shift around, tucking up against her side near a small arm.

You are well? She asked, her voice sleepy as she turned her head to peer at me, the patch of white around one eye contrasting brightly with her mostly-dark hide in the sun.

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October 22

Fictober, Prompt 22 – “We could have a chance.”

Warnings: pursuit, implied creepy things. Urban fantasy.


Our footsteps pounded down the alley, echoing too loudly from the old brick walls. There was no way we could avoid pursuit, but my heart sped even faster than the exertion at the thought of the noise giving us away. We had gained a small lead, at least.

Cass skidded to a halt ahead of me as we neared the end of the alley. The buildings gave way here to the street and then the river and dam beyond. I stopped also, and we panted for a moment, staring at the open space ahead.

That was not safe either.

This was a small town, though, not a city with plenty of tall buildings and potential hiding places in between.

Behind us, the sounds of pursuit echoed suddenly loud down the narrow way.

Cass’s head jerked around, eyes wide with terror. I didn’t look, my eyes stuck on the river.

The river. The bridge.

“We could have a chance,” I said quickly, hearing Cass draw in a ragged breath. I would have to take a chance of my own, but I could accept that. “We have to get to the bridge.”

Crossing the open space would leave us vulnerable, but as I began to let my other senses stretch, I thought that most of the pursuit was behind us, fast approaching.

Cass nodded, and I said, “Go!”

We both took off again, breath just barely under control from our last sprint. Human shouts and footsteps mingled with other, less identifiable noises behind us, but they hadn’t been expecting us to make a break for it.

The bridge, I thought, willing us both to have enough energy. The bridge.

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October 21

Fictober, Prompt 21 – “Change is annoyingly difficult.”

Warnings: magical battle, slight creepy imagery.

Fantasy follow-up to Day 2 and Day 9 (starts immediately after #9).


It was large, amorphous, and colored with a sickening swirl of unpleasant greens and reds and oranges. It looked like something that should have oozed over the ground, but instead it was fast, and the discordance jarred my head worse than the colors.

The creature came straight for me, scarcely seeming to notice the kami.

She intercepted it before it could reach my shields, cutting off a reaching, gooey arm with a sword made out of light.

The thing screeched in pain and drew back, only now seeming to focus itself (did it even have eyes?) on the deity standing before it. Still, it did not move to strike her, but squirmed sideways, working towards me again.

I sent out a blast of my own power, dark and heavy, aiming for another multicolored arm.

The magical punch struck home, and did some damage, but this time the creature shrieked in rage rather than pain.

I was the target of its malice, clearly. Because I was human? What did that mean?

The kami went on the offensive now, darting forward with her shining blade, her sword strokes fluid and practiced as she hacked off piece after piece of the strange, magical flesh. Some of the pieces quickly reattached themselves, while others wisped away into nothing.

Now it did strike back against her, but either it was unable to touch a deity, or her own magical protections were strong enough to fend it off, for she sustained no apparent wounds. Slowly, she drove it back.

I followed as close as I dared, sending my own magic in whenever I could get a clear shot. I doubted that my strength would do much to touch a kami, but I did not wish to hit her, even by accident.

As we pressed closer to the river, the thing seemed to temporarily regain some strength, surging up larger again, as if drawing form and power from the area where it had originated. I could almost tell what the kami meant about its power having a weird taste; it wasn’t quite that, not for me, but the smell of the air was strange here, a swampy miasma where there should have been only forest and rock and river.

Still the kami pressed it, relentless.

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October 20

Fictober, Prompt 20 – “You could talk about it, you know?”

Warnings: none. Fantasy.


I traced the last rune and watched as the energy poured down into the mixture bubbling on the stove. It looked good so far, the color was shifting from brown to orange the way it was supposed to, and I’d double-checked all the ingredients three times, so it should—

Something in the magic twisted, and whole pot flared briefly orange, and then faded into a distinctly unappetizing gray.

I cursed at length, spinning away from the stove and trying not to stomp along the floorboards like a petulant child.

“Still having trouble?” a voice asked from the doorway, and I glanced over to find Nkiru standing there before turning my head sharply away. I thought she had gone out; I didn’t want her to see me like this.

I didn’t want her to know that anything was wrong at all, but it had been impossible to hide for long with the two of us sharing the house right now.

Nkiru sighed and came over to wrap a dark-skinned arm around my shoulders, squeezing a little. I kept my head turned and tried to accept the comfort for what it was. She was open with physical affection and while I was discovering that that could be nice, I was…not used to it. Not after living on my own for so long.

“You could talk about it, you know?” she said softly, voice warm and understanding.

I squeezed my eyes shut tight against the sudden threat of tears. Kindness made this harder, somehow, but I couldn’t bring myself to shrug her off and turn away.

I shook my head. I didn’t think I could stand to talk about it. Not with my latest failure still simmering on the stove, smell becoming fouler with each passing moment.

She squeezed gently once more and then let me go when I turned away to move the pot off the heat, replacing it with the kettle. No sense in having gotten the stove going for nothing, and tea sounded appealing. At least all my non-magical cooking still went smoothly, which was just as well, because Nkiru wasn’t very good at it.

“Maybe it is a curse,” she said.

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October 19

Fictober, Prompt 19 – “Yes, I admit it, you were right.”, Original Fiction

Warnings: none. Fantasy, follow-up with Day 3′s raven friend.


On the fifth magical blast, the last of the Constructed soldiers finally fell apart and dissolved into black dust.

Lowering my hand, I panted, gulping in enough air to get my breath under control. I couldn’t risk speaking an incantation incorrectly, but I had to be sure there weren’t any more of them in the area.

When I was sure I could speak steadily, I enacted a magic-seeing spell and then turned slowly in a circle, watching for the cloudy glow that would mark the presence of an active spell or magical being (including Constructs of any kind) for at least a mile around.

It was a relief to come back to my original position having seen nothing.

I let the spell collapse, and staggered off the road just enough to be out of sight before putting my back to a tree and slumping to the ground, all the strength going out of me now that the danger had passed. It would take food and rest before I would be able to manage that kind of magical battle again.

The soft displacement of air by feathered wings was sufficient warning, and I did not open my eyes as my companion dropped out of the trees and landed on my shoulder. The raven croaked in an inquiring way, nibbling at my sweat-soaked hair.

“I’m fine,” I told her, summoning the energy to reach a hand up and gently stroke her chest feathers. She switched her gentle nibbling to my finger, then croaked again.

“Yes, I admit it, you were right,” I said, laughing a little. “That was definitely the best place to set an ambush for them.”

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October 17

Fictober, Prompt 17 – “There’s just something about them.”

Warnings: none. Urban fantasy.

It turned out that this was a continuation of Prompt 13, which I was not expecting. I really like this world though!


With that specific group of United Wizards Legion members thoroughly removed, thanks to the help of my new…friend from elsewhere, the next few days were calmer than I had anticipated. There were more of them out there in the world, but this loss would be a blow to their group, and this had been the most immediate threat.

We were lying low at my small house in Oak Hill outside the city, which mostly consisted of trying all the different foods we could find take-out for, and me buying new subscriptions to both the electronic and magical entertainment services so that we had something to fill our time other than the internet. The former was more than I anticipated, and the latter was probably a bad idea, since it wasn’t going to give my friend the most realistic view of things. Still, he seemed almost as interested in how the technology and magic worked (sometimes separately, sometimes together) as in the content of the shows and movies we watched.

On the second day, I made the mistake of saying, “Um, is there something I can call you? A name, or title, or anything?”

He blinked those human-but-not eyes at me, then smiled. (Like his laughter, it made my spine crawl, but…not in a bad way? Or maybe I was just getting used to the feeling.) “My native tongue is not one that humans find easy.”

I almost said, “Try me,” but managed to hold my tongue. For now. I was pretty good with languages.

“But,” he went on, looking thoughtful, “I would be happy to pick a human moniker, if that would suit.”

“Sure,” I agreed, and then promptly made my second mistake by introducing him to a few baby name sites on the internet.

“Are you sure that I cannot use Enguerrand?” he said after I had fervently vetoed his first half-dozen choices. “It has such a nice resonance to it.”

“What does that even mean? Never mind,” I shook my head when he opened his mouth to explain. “You’re trying to blend in a bit, right? If I’m going to call you by this name in public, then it can’t be too unusual.”

“I suppose you are right,” he sighed, and eventually settled on Alexander, to my relief. I was never going to be able to think of him as an “Alex” or otherwise shorten the name, but at least it wouldn’t sound weird.

Grocery shopping on day four was an experience.

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October 12

Fictober, Prompt 12 – “What if I can’t see it?”

Warnings: implied violent death, implied eldritch horrors. Horror-flavored fantasy.


“Of course, the containment is in place!” The Head Sorcerer was clearly offended by my question, drawing himself up to his full, thin height and looking down his nose at me. “What did you say your credentials were?”

Keeping my face neutral, I held out the badge I had already shown to five different people to make it as far as the Head Sorcerer’s office. “I am an independent containment inspector, sent by Magistrate Susumu. I am making rounds of all the known Holding Places, doing a standard inspection, and I need to see the seals and locks myself.” I handed over the letter of command from the Magistrate before he could ask for it.

“Well, I’m sure this is all quite unnecessary, but seeing as Magistrate Susumu has commanded it, then we must comply.” He gave a put-upon sigh, tossing the letter back to me. I caught it deftly just before it slid off the edge of his desk and tucked it away in my robes. The Head Sorcerer grabbed a large ring of keys carelessly from a drawer, and stood, coming around the desk and sweeping out of the room without waiting for me.

I followed silently, noting the problems that would have to be entered into my report: unsecured keys, a dangerously arrogant attitude regarding the containment, and a failure to perform any basic magical verification as to the veracity of my person, my badge, or my letter of command.

I followed the Head Sorcerer down through the great stone building, and then further down still into the catacombs below.

Poor lighting, I noted, continuing my earlier list, unsafe levels of moisture on the staircase.

Perhaps that last was a little bit petty. Despite being only halfway through my tour of inspections, my tolerance level for authorities overly impressed with their own importance had rarely been lower. And a slippery staircase was never a good idea anywhere, much less one leading to a containment area, where one might conceivably need to move fast.

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October 8

Fictober, Prompt 8 – “Can’t you stay?”

Warnings: none. Fantasy, with a snake friend.


I felt my tracking spell die as I climbed out of the culvert and scrambled up the dirt embankment that rose just outside the city limits. Cursing, I hauled myself up faster, and darted across the road and through the trees on the other side.

Coming to a halt at the edge of the huge field that suddenly stretched out before me, I quickly pulled the tuft of fur out of the pouch at my belt and crouched down to perform the spell again. It should still work, I had only nabbed the fur a short time ago.

The spell flared to life…and then promptly died again.

I stared at the fur, and then out at the field. Distance shouldn’t have been an issue, not at this range, and even if there were a lot of rats here, it should still have worked.

But, the tracking spells were not perfect, and a large number of rats might be enough to confuse it, especially if there were any that might be related to the one I had tracked.

I stared out at the field again in deepening dismay. How was I to find a single rat in this huge field without my tracking spell? I couldn’t just let it go. More people were falling ill by the day, and my searching had led me to that rat, specifically. I had to get my hands on it, or the illness was going to spread, and that inevitably meant that a lot of people were going to die.

I started running through the list of possible spells that I could use, wondering if there was any way I could modify the tracking spell sufficiently to get it to work—

Something moved, slithering, out of the corner of my eye, and I jerked my gaze down.

Along the edge of the grass came a snake, a large one, patterned light with regular dark patches down the length of its body, shading from nearly black to light brown.

Slowly, I crouched down.

The snake froze, clearly looking at me. It flicked its tongue once, but otherwise remained still.

“Ah, hello,” I told it in a soft voice, carefully reaching out one hand, letting magic spark low at my fingertips. “Would you be willing to help me, perhaps?”

The tongue flicked again, out-up-down-in, but the snake did not move.

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