An epic fantasy flash fiction series written while participating in The Prediction, a weekly online flash fiction challenge. Curious? Join us here, and write your own story inspired by & including 3 randomly selected words. 🙂
It was a good, easy life, and damned if Haera didn’t deserve it. Bracing her booted foot against the ground, she leaned back against the hill and brought bread to her mouth.
Moses immediately put his hooves on her shoulder, his slitted eyes fixed with anticipation.
“Gabari’s Tits,” Haera swore.
The goat head-butted her and released a confident bleat.
Haera looked up, her fingers shifting towards the bound sword beside her, but it was only Lucas, a village boy.
“Shepherdess! Take up your sword! The Twelve are here!”
If only the child understood the ruinous import of his plea.
They watched her, their faces a mix of emotions, lined up like the letters of the alphabet. Baenar leered, his foot on the back of Elias, the innkeeper.
Elias’ wife, Trina, hung from Caeradin’s muscled arms, a hopeless look on her tear-streaked face.
“What is this, then?” Haera asked, sword resting casually on her shoulder.
Moses, intensely eyeing Baernar, braced himself beside Haera’s leg.
“You’re being conscripted,” Ashanai said.
“I left that life,” Haera said. “I’m done.”
Ashanai laughed and tossed four bloodied ribbons at her feet.
Moses jumped back, bleating.
“Faas, Ilain, Jaie, and Kallisto are dead.”
It was a trick, wasn’t it? A measure of Ashanai’s dark humor? Indeed, as the tall woman laughed, her lips drew back to expose her teeth. If she’d been anyone else, Haera would have mistaken the grimace for a smile.
“When?” Haera asked, her voice calm like a windless sea.
“Does it matter?” Caeradin asked, Trina still dangling from his arms, forgotten.
Dathasha, sitting with her Icethorn cat on the bench outside the inn, cocked her head, blind eyes finding Haera. “They obfuscate our visions. Rip free the Wheel. Counter all the good we’ve done.”
They had never done good.
For all their terror, the people of Shylan Lake didn’t once wail or plead as the Twelve stood among them. Prayer-filled eyes looked to Haera for preservation. Their trust was misplaced, but today, it seemed Gabari, the True One, was paying attention, for it was only the Temperian, the industrial machine that ate souls and killed gods, that could pull Haera from her isolation.
“Fine,” Haera said, looking past Ashanai to the onyx face of Esdras. “Pluck your strings, you old spider.”
Esdras stood up from his chair, hooded eyes glinting. “Your sword looks thirsty, Godslayer.”
“Enough chatter. Let’s go.”
If only it were coincidence and not Ashanai’s manipulations that brought the quad of bandits upon their night-cloaked camp. It took all of Haera’s strength and will to force her sword back into its leather sheath, its deranged laughter echoing in her ears like a banshee’s croon.
NO…MORE, Heara growled. Blood speckled her arms, her chest; it stained her soul.
“I’ve missed you, Sister,” Caeradin grinned, clapping her on the back, a blow that would have driven a sturdy man to the ground.
Ashanai, a sprig of sage caught between her grinning teeth, nodded, pleasure glinting in her eyes.
Eyes knowing, Moses nibbled on the edge of Haera’s satchel as she scrubbed blood from her arms.
“We should have stayed in Shylan Lake,” Haera said, sitting back on her heels. She stared at her callused palms, seeing red though she’d washed it away.
“Feeling guilty?” Esdras asked, silently appearing beside her.
“No, that’s why I left. Killing feels good, righteous, and it doesn’t matter who it is.” She slid a glance sideways, catching Esdras’ black eyes. “You want a butcher.”
“Yes. Without you, the Temperian will swallow Advanteria. They’ll liberate every soul. No one will be reborn. Permanent death.”
Esdras procured a shield job on a westbound caravan, which Haera quickly decided was a mistake. Broad-hipped and blue-eyed, every cart driving merchant was a woman, and Caeradin and Baenar’s lewd jeers began immediately.
Disgust growing with each catcall, Haera was surprised and impressed when the merchant women halted their horned mules and descended on the men with obsidian blades and acid tongues.
Confounded, Caeradin, and Baenar fell silent. Afraid to be given a coward’s mantle by grinning Ashanai, the chastised men disappeared into the scrub-topped hills ahead.
Mood lifting, Haera was content to ride in their wake.
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