Thursday, October 07, 2010


Once upon a time, there lived a fantastic beast; a horned bird that tormented a city by the sea. Nothing could stand before it, and only the winter storm could slay it. But that was long ago, and unremembered, and it has long since died.
Once upon a time, the city by the sea found itself a mighty king, who ruled over great lands. He lived among them, and there he built his palace, overlooking the western shore. Beneath it there were catacombs, dungeons, and darkness. But that was long ago, and he has long since died.
Once upon a time, a monk was falsely accused of murder, and imprisoned beneath the castle. His order built a shrine upon a hillside, on the site of an old spring that had run dry, where they waited and prayed for him. The monks dug into the hillside to build it, and paved a great road with the stone. Two years later, the accused monk appeared in the shrine; the people of the city took it as a miracle and let him go free. But that was long ago, and the little shrine has fallen into disrepair; the monk it saved has long since died.
Once upon a time, the city by the sea was blessed. A man who might have been a prophet said that they would forever prosper, if they never forgot who they were. A great storm blew all around, but never touched the city, and the white walls of the palace shone like a beacon out to the sea. They blessed the man who might have been a prophet, and welcomed in the hundreds of swamped boats as he commanded them. The city became known for kindness, and beauty, and wealth. But the might-be-prophet's words have been almost forgotten, still whispered in proverbs and by old women in their last days. He himself has long since died.
Once upon a time, a selfish king inherited the throne. The city by the sea struggled under his rule. There were whispers that burned through the city like fire, and they forgot how to trust their king, or the nobles, or even themselves. Grief marked them, fear ground their hearts to dust. Their kindness was beaten into obedience, the high-held heads were cut down. Their hearts were burning as they forgot. But that king has died, perhaps not so long ago.
Once upon a time, there was an actor, with great skill in his craft; he made worlds spring to life with his voice, and moved like a dancer in a dream. He knew the powders of the street magicians and the stories of the city, the beast and the monks and the might-have-been-prophet. The court was entranced by him, and he walked among them for a time. But he learned what he should not have learned, watching as he did. And he was falsely accused, and cast down from the light, to the lowest cell of the dungeon to starve.
And perhaps he died.
Once upon a time, a black spirit appeared in his place, clothed in torn robes and wearing the skull of a fantastic beast. It spoke in riddles, could not be caught, blew away like smoke. It brought forth a bleached human skull, and the skull burned.
It called itself the Dead Spirit; it walked in darkness.
Once upon a time was now.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


More random shorts. These are shorter than the last ones, but I still like them all. Maybe not together, but oh well.

“But...” Emily hesitated for a long moment before continuing. “Some people are good.”
“Not all good.” He smiled thinly. “You'll see it more when you get older. But I've never met someone who was all good—and the ones who seemed it at first sometimes turn out to be the worst of the lot. The prince who smiles and laughs and keeps peace with everyone seems good, but he will send a man to his death for nothing, should that man cross him.” The wizard paused for a long moment, clasping his hands in front of his face, his mask of a smile for the moment gone. “They do evil in the name of good. Those are the worst of them; who believe they are righteous. At least a highwayman admits he is stealing.”


Adara paused, watching him carefully. “Why does a spirit of darkness look to the light?”
“We all are attracted to that which we do not have,” The Dead Spirit replied quietly as he washed the dirt out of the wound, letting her blood stream away into the blackness of the cavern beyond. “The moth emerges from its dark cocoon to seek the flame.”
“You could have light,” Adara murmured.
“As the moth can,” the Spirit said. “And it is destroyed.”


“You idiot!” Chester thundered, huge voice defying his small frame. “He's dying for you, and you still can't believe him? He's never wanted to hurt you, Alice!”
“How would you even know?” she sobbed, jerking away. “You've never been there!”
“I've always been there!” Chester caught her again, and she could've sworn his skinny fingers were claws. “As much as he has. And let me tell you something, Alice. If he dies, you're going to die, whether at the hands of the queen and her lot or when that medicine 'saves' you. He's Quinn, he's Hatter, and he has never hurt you.” Chester forced her to look at the fading, stumbling, dying warrior still in the street. “She's not the one killing him, Alice! You are!”


Sometimes, only sometimes, she would see him once more, through the half-conscious fog of the sticky medicine Malise gave her, right before she fell asleep. He would come up the stairs quietly, appearing in the darkness like a ghost with a scarlet mark, so that neither Malise nor Kalida nor Eldon nor their master would know he was there. He would sit with her then, far closer than he did in the mornings or the afternoons—he would touch her hair, and hold her head in his lap, and she would smile up at him in a daze, and when he thought she was asleep, he would whisper things that she could never remember but loved so much to hear. But the feeling of his touch and his quiet voice would send her to sleep again, and when she awoke he'd be far away again, in the wooden chair that seemed a million miles from her bed.
She wanted to call him over to her again, to make him repeat the words that she could never remember until they were burned into her mind, tattooed onto her memories like the scarlet bird. But she didn't. She couldn't. It wouldn't mean anything if she did.


“Well, you have to fix it then.” Emily ventured cautiously. “You keep telling me everyone needs to be responsible for what they do, but if the good man being gone is bad than you need to be a good man too.”
“I could never be him.” The wizard shook his head. “I had too much darkness in me for too long.”
“But you don't have half as much darkness now,” she pointed out. “You do all sorts of nice things.”
“Just because I'm not lost right now doesn't mean I have a map.” He looked up at her with that same false smile. “But I'm alright, I swear. I just don't like to think about it much.”
She examined him. “You're lying.”
“Only halfway.” The smile faltered a little, but then he turned away. “But it's almost dinner. Come help in the kitchen.”