Tag Archives: flash fiction

Free Flash Fiction

Fools for Love
This was written for spook_me on livejournal/dreamwidth for the 2018 challenge and was inspired by This lovely piece of art
X X X

Tonka sometimes wondered if her choices were always the wisest. She loved Sanja, she truly did but the Vila often got a wild hair. What could she expect of a woodland fairy? Well, she did expect to stay at home a little more often. She liked the Velebit Mountains. Tonka knew she’d follow Sanja anywhere but she should have protested a little harder when Sanja said they were going to find Baba Yaga and teach the Mother of Witches a lesson or two about messing with the Vilas of the mountains.

So now Tonka found herself fencing with a hut with chicken legs. Adrijan helped her out while Sanja took on Baba Yaga. The snow got into the act somehow, Tonka’s footing sliding and slipping as she slashed with her sword. “Sorry you came along?” she panted at Adrijan.

“Anything for my princess.” He grinned nearly taking a toe off Baba Yaga’s hut with his blade.

He wasn’t talking about her, not that he had much she wanted other than his friendship, and Adrijan was an excellent friend. His princess was an enchantress back home with no royal blood. She had no real love for Adrijan but enjoyed playing with him, telling him if he were a great hero he could win her heart like in a fireside tale. He refused to listen to Tonka or Sanja about his ‘princess,’ so they reluctantly let him do as he would. He’d learn the hard way. Adrijan followed Tonka on this ridiculous adventure to prove himself. He did it for love and so had she. What fools were they?

Tonka ducked under the hut’s foot but before she could retaliate, she heard Sanja scream. She whipped around to see her lover lifted off the ground impossibly high by the neck by a frail-looking crone. That was one of Baba Yaga’s defenses. She looked like an old woman a strong wind could blow away but she was tougher than anyone would guess.

“Forget the house,” Tonka shouted at Adrijan. She ran full tilt, snow be damned. Adrijan would follow.

Baba Yaga gestured and Tonka went flying, nearly landing on her sword. Adrijan soared above her, crashing down on her. Tonka lost her breath. The next scream she heard wasn’t Sanja’s. Baba Yaga rushed past, her hair on fire. Sanja raced after her, winging flames magically at the witch.

Never aggravate an earth spirit, Tonka thought, rolling Adrijan off her.

Baba Yaga dove into her house and the thing scampered off as fast as its chicken legs could go. Sanja held a hand out to Tonka while rubbing her neck with the other. Tonka let Sanja haul her up into a kiss. Adrijan pulled himself up and walked off shielding his eyes. He was amazingly shy about expressions of love. His princess would eat him alive.

“This was a really dumb idea,” Tonka said when Sanja allowed her some air. She examined Sanja’s neck, seeing the bruises Baba Yaga left behind.

Sanja smiled thinly. “Probably, but she’ll think twice about encroaching on my woods.”

“You are brave and beautiful and crazy.” Tonka embraced her. “Can we go home now?”

“Sure. So, bets on whether or not Adrijan makes an epic poem of this for his princess?” Sanja grinned.

Tonka snorted. “No bet. He will.” She linked her fingers with Sanja’s. “Home, my love. Let’s go home.”

The Belsnickle of Deutschtown

The Belsnickle of Deutschtown
By Jana Denardo
Author’s Note: This was written for the 12 days of fic mas 2017. It’s set in the Soldiers of the Sun series and you can find the longer works in this series here
XXX

“Check down that way.” Caleb pointed toward a block of houses. He scowled as the wind picked up. The calls the Soldiers of the Sun had received from the people living in the City of Allegheny’s German community known as Deutschtown. They had gotten reports of a man dressed in furs chasing and hurting children. It was nearly Christmas, and they were running around freezing their backsides off because no one wanted let kids get hurt. Caleb knew this had to be bringing back bad memories for Temple in particular who had been traumatized a couple Christmases ago when they faced down Pere Fouettard, the Whipping Father. Li was with them then. This was the first Christmas with Temple’s new partner, Jo. She looked particularly unhappy to be out late night with frigid wind blowing up her skirt, even if she did wear pants under it.

“Did you see something?” she asked, drumming her fingers on the butt of her pistol.

“Maybe. The snow is making it pretty impossible to see anything,” Caleb replied. He hated feeling like he was leading the team blind.

“Do you really think it’s the Belsnickel?” Temple scowled, barely visible in the pale street light.

“From what we’ve been told and researched, it seems likely,” Caleb said, flexing his fingers. Even inside his gloves, they were cold and stiff, poorly suited to drawing his sword if need be.

Agni shuffled down the street, hunched up under his uniform jacket. “May I ask something, and I don’t mean to be critical of Christianity?”

“You put up with our questions about Hinduism,” Temple replied.

“Why are there so many evil spirits associated with Christmasn and why are all of them revolving around hurting children?” Agni skidded on the icy bricks. “You have Pere Fouettard whipping and killing children. This Belsnickle is just as bad, and then the Krampus looks like any demon in our reference library. I don’t understand why Christians want to set such monstrous creatures on their children.”

“Not all Christians,” Caleb replied. “We Welsh had the Mari Lwyd who engages in witty banter and then we party.”

“The Italian prefer to party as well, if you call the Esta dei Sette Pesci, the feast of seven fishes a party. Dinner lasts for hours all the way up to when we need to go to Midnight mass,” Jo said, peering between two houses. “We do have La Befana, the Christmas witch but she’s more like Santa Claus, not some crazed whipping demon who punishes kids for Santa.”

“All right, we French have Pere Fouettard as you know. The wicked Christmas spirits seem to be more in France and Germany and through the cold northern countries. I don’t know why,” Temple said. “You know how I am on research. Honestly, I think it all started as a way to get children to behave but you know how demons can be. If enough people invoke them, they’ll take the shape that is expected, the one called upon. And that leaves us freezing off our family jewels – forgive that, Jo – chasing down a Belsnickle days before Christmas.”

“Forgive what? If I had jewels, they’d be gone by now.” Jo grinned.

“I think I’m beyond annoyed as a large segment of Christian society at this point,” Agni huffed, rubbing his arms.

“There!” Temple leveled his Tommy gun at the unkempt looking man clothed in furs under a street lamp at the end of the block. “First one who gets him, gets the first cup of coffee when we get home.”

Caleb didn’t need to direct them to battle, and if Temple could be motivated by coffee – and he always could – Caleb had no complaints. Within in seconds, there was one less demon in the world, and they were in the car heading back to Oakland, another Christmas saved.

The Mari Lwyd – 12 days of ficmas flash fic

The Mari Lwyd
By Jana Denardo

Author’s note. This is set in my Kept Tears universe. You can find Kept Tears Here
XXX

Aaron nestled into the couch listening to Bryn and Bron bantering back and forth. Rhys’s twins had arrived in town for Christmas. He didn’t think they had any hint of Christian faith being fae, but they liked the lights and the gifts and all the parties. He didn’t mind when they came to town, the centuries old Tylwyth Teg twins were amusing. He enjoyed spending time with them.

That said, he’d rather spend the night with Rhys alone. Ah well, there would be other nights. Rhys spent most of his life isolated from his own kind, his family, as one of the guardians of humanity. Aaron could hardly begrudge him a family visit. Besides, the twins had centuries worth of stories about their father. He couldn’t get enough of those.

Someone knocked on Rhys’s door. As Rhys was busy getting drinks, Aaron levered himself up to go answer it. One day, when it came to dealing with the fey, maybe he’d learn to curve his helpful nature, but that day wasn’t today so here he stood, staring at a horse’s skull grinning toothily at him.

Aaron slammed the door shut, leaning on it, the servos in his prosthetic hand whining as he splayed his hand against the wood. “Rhys!”

“What?” he called merrily from his station at the makeshift bar he had set up in the corner of his living room.

“There’s a goddamn horse’s skull on a skeletal body wearing a cape with a bunch of strange people behind it.” He couldn’t keep the slightly hysterical note out of his tone.

“Brilliant,” Bryn cried, popping up off the couch.

“The Mari Lewd. It’s been ages since one of them has shown up,” Bron added.

Aaron pressed his forehead against the door. He should have realized they’d know what the hell was going on. There were days he wondered if he had suffered more brain trauma than he thought when he lost his arm and nearly his leg after his transport was hit during the war. It would explain his complete love for Rhys despite the fact he was fae and had so much accompanying weirdness swirling around him.

“What is the Mari Lwyd?” Aaron said, stumbling a bit over the strange name.

“The Grey Mare, it’s a Christmas tradition in parts of Wales, and you know that’s where my kind once held sway,” Rhys replied, striding toward the door with his sons.

He flung the door open. This time Aaron could see the horse skull held a bell in its jaw. Behind it were several humans but somehow, he doubted the colorfully clothed men and women were remotely human. He knew the fae hide their otherness on this plane.

The horse’s skull nodded, ringing its bell while the others sang. “Wel dyma ni’n dwad. Gyfeillion diniwad. I ofyn am gennod i ganu. Os na chawn ni gennad. Rhowch wybod ar ganiad. Pa fodd mae’r ‘madawiad, nos heno.”

Aaron had no idea what they were talking about. Was it Welsh? Some faery language? They had the same linguist roots for all he knew.

Rhys sang back, “Does genni ddim cinio. Nac arian iw gwario. I wneud i chwi roeso, nos heno.”

“It’s pwnco,” Bryn told Aaron.

“It’s a battle of insults and rhymes,” Bron added.

“Ooookay,” Aaron drew out the word, still confused but what he knew of Welsh holiday traditions could hide in the dot on an I. If La Befana, the Italian Christmas witch showed up tonight too, he was out of here.

The strangers with the Mari Lwyd shot back something more in that foreign language, and the twins answered them. After several exchanges, they changed to English, so Aaron could follow.

“You can’t come in. This is a game you cannot win,” Rhys said, and the Mari Lwyd clattered its jawbone.

Maybe I should just go get a jump on the drinking, Aaron thought, vaguely irritated out by the whole thing. He wondered how long this battle could go on but they all seemed to be enjoying it. He wanted to consider himself open to all cultures, so Aaron tried to jump into the verbal fray. Corrine would have fared better than he.

Finally, Rhys threw his arms open wide and took a step back. “You have triumphed, enter.”

The people trooped in, more than Aaron had thought had been in the hall. He thought he might recognize a few of them. He helped Rhys pour drinks while the twins fetched appetizers. Aaron turned to get a bottle of vodka and when he turned back he yelped, nearly dropping the bottle. A pallid head sat on the table and a headless body leaned against it.

“Rhys!”

“Donahue, put your damn head on,” Rhys snapped at the fae. “You remember, Donahue, right Aaron?”

Aaron nodded. Donahue the Dullahan and his damn detachable head was how he’d found out about Rhys was fae. It wasn’t any less creepy now.

“And I was putting the head on.” Donahue’s head said, his slack jaw rapping on the table. The Dullahan scooped it up, setting it on his shoulders where it pinked up more lifelike. “Can’t drink without it.”

Aaron sighed and poured him a vodka martini as the twins raced by, their glamour spells dropped, their pointed ears showing. As he handed over the drink he noticed most of the fae had abandoned the spells that made them look human.

Aaron turned to Rhys. “Am I the only human here?”

Rhys let his magic fall away. Long gold curls, delicately pointed ears and luminous eyes, Rhys was even more gorgeous without it. “Yes.” He slipped his arms around Aaron, “but you’re my human.” He kissed Aaron.

It was corny, but Aaron’s heart melted.

“Always.” He leaned against Rhys. “This is the weirdest Christmas ever.”

“Oh, it’s only going to get weirder from here,” Rhys promised, caressing Aaron’s backside.

“I think I need rum, lots of rum.”

Rhys laughed, pulling up two liters of coke, knowing Aaron would want that too. “Not too much. I have plans for you later, and I need you in fighting form.”

Aaron wrapped a strand of Rhys’s long hair around one hand, “Tell me more.”

“Later. If Donahue overhears he might want to join in…or just the head.” Rhys smirked.

Aaron dropped the strand of hair. “And now that you ruined sex forever.”

“Oh, we’ll see about that.” Rhys kissed him again. “Challenge accepted.”

“Weirdest Christmas ever,” Aaron repeated, returning the kiss. “Potential the hottest.”

“As I said, challenge accepted.”

Aaron never wanted a party to be over more but until then, he was going to make the most of the crowd of fae.’ Merry Christmas to him.

Author’s Note – the pwnco was taken from http://www.omniglot.com

Christmas Dreams – a 12 days of ficmas Flash Fic

Christmas Dreams
By Jana Denardo
Author’s Note: This was written for the 12 days of fic mas 2017. It’s set in the Soldiers of the Sun series and you can find the longer works in this series here
XXX

The soft creaking set Temple’s teeth on edge. He could barely see anything past the edge of his dual flashlights, one clipped to his belt, the other he carried. It barely lit the byzantine roads weaving through Paris. Where were his brothers? Probably leaving him on his own. Teaching him a lesson.

Temple wiped a sweaty palm on the big red cross centered over his chest. All he needed was to lose his grip on his sword because his hands were sweating. Why were they sweating? Cold bit at him making him wonder where his gloves were. Why did he sweat? Nerves? Maybe. He was also after all. He didn’t see a single Knights Templar anywhere near him.

Temple blinked up at the street lights. Fat snowflakes tumbled from the sky. Why was he here alone? He didn’t remember why he’d been sent to patrol this sector of Paris, or even how he wandered here. Where were his gloves? He dug in his coat pocket, finding them. Temple tugged them on.

Another creak made Temple spin around. He couldn’t see anything moving in the snow. He wanted to go home. It was Christmas eve. He should be with his family, not looking for demons but that was his job as a Templar. He should be home before the fire. He was too old to put out shoes full of fruits and nuts for Pere Noel but he could dream of singing carols with his mother, getting ready for a Noel dinner of oysters and pate de foie gras. He could taste the richness of it even now. If only he could figure out what the creak was.

A strange rattle of chain joined the creaking. Temple gripped his sword’s pummel. He hated swords. He wished he could hunt demons with a gun, like the Soldiers of the Sun did, but no, the Templars were so mired in the past.

There, something moved in the distance, the falling snow obscuring his view. Most people would not be out on Christmas eve. He didn’t see the white and red of a Templar uniform, nor that of the police. He pulled his sword. If he survived this, he was taking himself to the cinema to see Jacques Feyder’s latest movie. Temple hoped he wasn’t drawing his sword on some innocent person out for a wintery stroll. He crept closer trying to see through the swirling snow. It was so thick it was nearly vertigo inducing.

Temple’s mouth dried, seeing the man wore robes not unlike a monk’s. Dark unkept hair and scraggly beard poked out of the cowl. A long chain clanked around his waist as the creature stalked through the snow, a wicker basket creaking on his back.

Pere Fouettard! The Whipping Father. Temple remembered threats of Pere Fouettard growing up, his father and grandfather especially holding it over his head and those of his brothers and sister. Be good or Pere Fouettard will get you, gut you, boil you into stew. At best Pere Fouettard will whip you raw. Naughty kids all met Pere Fouettard in the end.

God knew Temple had been naughty most of his life. There had been so many women, men too, this year just like the one before. He was a teen, too old for Pere Fouettard surely and yet there he stood. Temple steeled his jaw. He was a knight Templar. A wicked spirit like Pere Fouettard could not be suffered but could he be killed? Was he immortal? Temple didn’t know. The research aspect of demon hunting wasn’t his strength. He was better with action.

So why was his sword arm trembling?

He could see Pere Fouettard’s face now under the light of a street lamp. His lips parted showing yellowed teeth as he leered at Temple. Wasting no time, Temple charged, swinging his sword. His boot skidding on the icy bricks of the roadway. Over balanced, Temple sprawled, striking his head as he went down,

Stars joined the snowflakes dancing in the sky. Laughing, Pere Fouettard brought a whip down. Fire launched across his arm and side. Temple screamed. He scrabbled in the snow for his sword. Where was it? How could it had gotten so far from his side when he fell? Pere Fouettard’s whip swung fast and furious.

Temple shrieked under the onslaught, the smell of his blood heavy in the air. Where was his back up? His brothers still were absent. Not even his cries brought them running. His sword had vanished. All that existed was Pere Fouettard’s ferocious face and his flailing whip.

“Temple!”

He snapped his head side to side trying to find the man calling for him. No one was there.

“Temple, wake up!”

Temple sat up, shivering in the cold. Only it wasn’t cold. He wasn’t lying in the snow, dying at the hands of a Noel monster. He sweated profusely, blankets pooling at his waist. Next to him, Li had his arms around him, shaking him gently.

“Temple, are you all right? You were screaming in your sleep.”

Temple scrubbed a rough hand over his face. “Pere Fouettard was killing me.”

Li’s brow wrinkled as his partner and lover stared at him in the dark room, lit only by a sliver of moonlight through the curtain that hadn’t been pulled shut entirely. “We beat Pere Fouettard last week, remember?”

Temple shook his head. What the hell…oh, right, they had literally fought Pere Fouettard in Ambridge and saved a bunch of kids from the evil Noel spirit. “God, it felt so real. I was in Paris, still a Templar.” He licked his lips, remembering his teenaged years before he ran away from the Templars to join the Soldiers of the Sun. “My brothers had deserted me.” That much was true. His family wanted nothing to do with him and vice versa.

“It was just a dream.” Li kissed him gently. “You’re here with me. Paris was a long time ago.”

And so it was. He was in Pittsburgh now which couldn’t compare with Paris for beauty but his found family lived here. He was happy here when he wasn’t dreaming about being beaten by Saint Nicholas’s wicked counterpart. “Felt so real. I was losing.” He pushed up the sleeve of his pajama top jsut to be sure he didn’t bear any whip marks.

“You beat him in the real world. Just remember that.” Li patted the mattress. “Try to go back to sleep. Lie down with me.”

Temple settled back, and Li pulled the covers up over them, encasing him in warmth, welcome in the chill room. Li tucked up against him and Temple closed his eyes.

“Thanks for being here.”

“Always, love. always.”

Temple found that the perfect thing to fall back to sleep thinking on.

Author Note #2- The novella where they fought Pere Fouettard is The Darkest Midnight in December and you can find it at the link in the first note.

Carnival of Lost Souls

Carnival of Lost Souls
By Jana Denardo

Author’s Note: This was written for the 2017 Spook_me challenge on Dreamwidth/Livejournal. You can see my prompt here and he’s even the right coloring for Faolan. This is set in the Lucerna universe that began with the story, Triskelion (which is a freebie, just ask me for it, if you’d like). Happy Halloween!

Summary When Faolan’s sister, Sorcha, lets slip that brave demon-hunting mage Faolan is afraid of clowns, his two lovers, Jason and Derrek, have to know the back story.

XXX

“I will pay you to make him go see the new It.” Sorcha, Faolan’s sister, beamed, wheeling into Faolan’s office.

Jason glanced up from where he’d artfully draped himself on the window-seat. “I’ll take that action.”

“Not going to happen.” Faolan didn’t bother to look up from his paperwork. Maybe they’d take the hint and leave him alone. His two overs, Derrek the werewolf and Jason the vampire obviously had nothing interesting to do other than sit in his office and trade the typical werewolf versus vampire barbs.

“The coulrophobia is strong with this one.” Sorcha giggled.

Derrek twirled his office chair in a circle. “What’s that?”

“Fear of clowns,” Jason supplied.

Derrek looked at Faolan as if he’d lost his mind. “What’s wrong with clowns? They’re fun. How can you be afraid of clowns? You face down demons on a daily basis.”

“Yes, lover, how can you be afraid of clowns​?”

At the smugness of Jason’s tone, Faolan tossed his pen aside. “I never said I was afraid of clowns.”

“I know why,” Sorcha singsonged. No matter how old they got, he and she remained children when it came to teasing each other.

“I will pay you to shut up.” Faolan pushed back from his desk. He wondered if he should just run for it. Sorcha would tell the story, especially if Jason poured on the charm. No, what did he have to be ashamed of? He’d been just a little kid at the time.

“Now I want to know even more.” Derrek stretched.

Faolan sighed. “All right, meet me in the apartment so we can be comfortable and I’ll tell you the story.”

“I’ll buy beer for us or at least make tea.” Derrek jumped up.

“No, you make terrible tea.” Faolan knew once they heard the story they wouldn’t laugh. It wasn’t that sort of tale. Yes, maybe it is a bit silly to be afraid of clowns but he had good reason, and it wasn’t just Spielberg’s awesome Poltergeist to blame. Faolan did, however, wonder how horror movies found a market when everyone knew ghosts and demons were real. His group, the Lucerna, was only one of many organized to fight them.

He wasn’t surprised that Jason and Derrek raced ahead of him to the apartment that they oft-times shared, but Sorcha’s following them was. “You know I don’t need you to tell this story.”

“And miss out?” Sorcha wheeled along in her chair. “Deidre is still at her friend’s house so Mommy has time to herself. And you do need me. I know parts that you didn’t get to see.”

“But you’ve told them to me.” He shrugged. “It’s fine.”

“Unless you plan to get naked and have your boyfriends cuddle you as you tell a scary story.” Her grin bordered on evil.

He rubbed his chin, pretending to contemplate it. She reached up and slapped his butt. Faolan chuckled and slipped inside his apartment. Jason already had a kettle on the stove for them, and Derrek had fetched a beer. The werewolf wasn’t much on tea.

“What do you want?” Jason asked.

“Earl Grey will do.” Faolan sat on the couch and kicked off his shoes. He might as well get comfortable. “I was nine and we were still in Ireland at the time. Mom, Grandma and I were cleaning Great Aunt Mary’s house. She had passed at the ripe old age of ninety-nine, and she liked her collecting, Great Aunt Mary did.”

“That’s putting it mildly. I was there too, but I wasn’t of an age to help much. Mostly I followed Mom around getting in the way,” Sorcha added, parking her wheelchair next to the coffee table.

“Sounds like a boring thing for a kid,” Derrek said, claiming a recliner for himself.

Faolan shrugged. “I was on a quest for hidden treasure. Grandma Brighid promised us treasure.”

“More like lied to get you to do work.” Jason sat next to Faolan, giving Faolan’s knee a squeeze.

“Exactly. Anyhow I was let loose in the attic. I had one job, carry down the boxes to the lower levels of the house where it was cooler so we could examine them without sweating to death. In addition to, uh, collecting, Great Aunt Mary loved cats, cats who were so hoping for mice in those attic boxes.”

“Mom and I got to sort through all the boxes.” Sorcha grinned. “It was kind of fun.”

“Yeah she got to look for treasure, and I got a hernia before I was in double digits lugging a million boxes full of crap.” Faolan snorted. “Great Aunt Mary had this full length mirror, you know the kind that swiveled like on Indiana Jones? I know better to linger on a reflective surface for too long, even then, but I was a cocky kid sure my wand could handle any ghost that might crop up.”

“Phrasing.” Jason said, hopping back up as the kettle whistled.

“You’re banned from watching Archer!” Faolan poked a finger at him. “Anyhow, I paused to look in the mirror as I was struggling along with a bunch of hat boxes.”

”You nearly died for a bunch of moldy hats,” Sorcha blurted out before dissolving into giggles.

“You would have cried.”

“Yes but I’d be sure the headstone read ‘Beloved brother, died for hats’.”

“She’s evil.” Derrek swigged his beer.

“Always. All the females in my family are right down to her daughter.” Faolan twisted on the couch. “Two sugars please, Jason.”

“I’m familiar with you.” Jason brought Faolan and Sorcha their tea, and fetched wine for himself.

“So you looked in the mirror,” Derrek prompted.

“Looked in, posed, pretended he had muscles.” Sorcha flexed her arms in a strongman pose.

“Hush, you weren’t there. You don’t know.”

“I could have been peeking at the door. I was, you know. That’s how Mom and Grandma were warned so fast.”

He rolled his eyes. “I was looking in the mirror, and instead of the wall lined with a million boxes, there was a clown with a balloon right behind me in the reflection.”

“Shit!” Jason’s eyes widened, outdone by Derrek’s stunned look.

“Right? I whipped around but there was no clown. Right then a hand reached out and dragged me into the mirror.”

“At which point you wet yourself,” Derrek said.

“No kidding.”

“I thought it looked like fun because I was so little. I heard the carnival music when Faolan got pulled through.” Sorcha blew across her cup. “I tried to get in before I went to tell Mom that Faolan went to Narnia, and yes I know it’s a wardrobe but what do you want? I was a kid.”

“Weirdo. I’ll tell them about the other plane and then you can tell them about the rescue.”

Sorcha gave him a thumb’s up.

“So crazy Great Aunt Mary had a portal mirror in her attic, and a demon clown dragged me through it. I was dead, and I knew it. The clown had a grip like a vise.”

“And you were a skinny kid,” Sorcha said.

I’m telling this story,” he huffed. “But she isn’t wrong. He dragged my scrawny arse into this circus on LSD. Tents had teeth and eyes. They pulsated.” Faolan shuddered, feeling their vibrations all over again as if he were back there. Jason took his hand. “It had that music, you know the one you always hear with circuses, but put through some warped filter. Everything about the place was warped, the performers, the audience, like it was the circus of the damned.”

Derrek leaned forward, “Then what? This is really real, right?”

“A hundred percent. The clown dragged me into a tent where other clowns were getting ready, putting on their make up, and he tried to force me to sit down. He was going to paint my face, and I knew that once he did, I’d be one of them. I’d be there forever.”

“How’d you get away?” Jason squeezed his hand. “Because I’d notice anything clownish about you.”

“Well some things can get clownish red on him but it’s not usually his nose.” Derrek waggled his eyebrows.

Sorcha flung up a hand. “I don’t want to hear about my brother’s sex life.”

“And I’ve never heard complaints before. Are you trying to say something?” Faolan narrowed his eyes at Derrek.

“That milk has more color than you,” Derrek replied without missing a beat.

“You glow in the dark,” Jason added.

Faolan scowled. “And you two can go find someone else to cuddle up with.”

Sorcha studied them. “Will a vampire and a werewolf cuddle without you in the middle?”

“I thought you didn’t want to hear about my love life.” He turned his glare on his sister. “To get back on track, I might have been skinny but I was like a greased pig when it came to holding on to me. That’s about the only thing that saved my life.”

“Anyone else thinking about oiling him up and seeing what happens?” Jason pulled Faolan against him, kissing his neck.

“No one is thinking of that,” Sorcha replied darkly.

“I am,” Derrek muttered.

“Then maybe you shouldn’t have implied he’s Faolan the red-dicked albino reindeer.” Sorcha arched her eyebrows at him.

“Oh god.” Faolan covered his face with a hand. “Just tell them about the rescue.”

“I was jealous, like I said, because I wanted to go through the mirror but when I touched it it was solid so I went downstairs to tell Mom that Faolan was having fun without me.” Sorcha shrugged. “I liked clowns, you see. Mom took one look at Grandma and asked ‘Wasn’t Aunt Mary supposed to destroy a Mirror of Ocala way back when?’ They decided for some reason Aunt Mary kept this one, and they went racing up to the attic. I wanted to go with but of course they wouldn’t take me.”

“Yeah a demented circus from hell is probably not the best place for a little girl,” Derrek agreed.

“Definitely. Anyhow Grandma knew the spell to open the portal. She and Mom charged in, wands ready.”

“It didn’t take them too long to find me. It took me years before I realized they had a tracking spell on me, expecting me to get in trouble like any little boy, especially one with too much power at his disposal.”

“So Brighid and Mom whipped some clown ass?” Jason grinned.

“It was terrifying to behold.” Faolan nodded. “They hustled me back home, and destroyed that mirror like Great Aunt Mary should have eons ago.”

“And no residual clownishness? No urge for greasepaint?” Jason’s grin broadened.

“Not so far so I’m sure it’s safe.”

“Maybe we should strip him down and check for greasepaint.” The tips of Jason’s fangs peeked out.

“I’m not opposed to that,” Faolan assured him.

“While not opposed, I sure as hell don’t want to watch.” Sorcha put her tea cup on the table and wheeled toward the door.

Derrek held it open for her while Jason took his laptop off the table and started tapping keys.

Faolan shot Jason a quizzical look. “Do I want to know what’s up with the computer?”

“Just wanted a little mood music,” Jason replied and Nox Arcana’s Carnival of Lost Souls spilled out of the speakers.

Faolan glared. “You suck.”

“Vampire, duh,” Derrek said, stripping off his shirt.

“Why do I love you guys?” Faolan sighed.

“We’ll show you.” Jason promised.

Faolan had absolutely no objections to that.

Flash Fiction – When They Called Her Home

When They Called Her Home
By Jana Denardo
Author’s Note: Written for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: A Title And Two Lines. The title and the opening and closing lines were chosen from the offered prompts.

XXX
Deep inside the twisting wood, there is a house, in a gully. Some might say the house would have been better at the lip of the ravine instead of down near the river. Her grandmother’s magic kept it safe from flooding. Aeleres pressed a hand to her chest, trying to stop the pain blossoming there. The rain and the birds called her home, each drop, each song a message only a witch like her could hear. Aeleres’s grandmother was sick. Come home! Come home!

However, she had been studying at the Royal Academy too many miles away, even by the standards witches and wizards traveled by. Translocation had limitations. As she rested up in a bucolic way station, Aeleres felt her grandmother slip away, leaving a tatter in her soul’s cloth. By the time she had enough energy built up to slip through to the gully’s lip, two days had passed.

Aeleres knew her grandmother hadn’t been utterly alone when her time came. Aeleres’s mother lived an easy translocation away at the mouth of the river in the sprawling resort town tucked between the marshes this forest gave way to and the sea beyond. Her mother, Wenna, ever the dutiful daughter, would have ensured the funeral rites had been seen to. The logical, cold part of Aeleres wondered if her mother felt free from the burden of caring for – and being emotionally beaten up – by their family’s contentious matriarch. Grandmother had been a tough, difficult woman. Woe to the person who didn’t let her have her own way. Yet Aeleres loved her in spite of them constantly butting heads.

The tableau, shadowed by the emerald crowns of the forest, seemed diminished by the loss of its mistress. The large home seemed to sag a bit on its foundation as if in mourning. The yard that sprawled down to the riverbed still looked well kempt. Aeleres let her mind spin back decades to the shoe-less days racing through the grass, her silly cat at her heels until they splashed down into the shallow river, water cold and delightful.

Resting against a thick oak tree, she drank in a deep breath perfumed with loam and spring flowers. As much as running around the house had been fun, it was the deep forest that held the most special place in her heart. Aeleres had spent so much of her childhood, playing here. She could climb quick and nimble as a squirrel, always on the look out for dragons. One day she and the Robb twins had found one, no bigger than a fox. The young dragonling had played with them for years. Even now she made a trip to visit with Aeleres once a year. It wouldn’t surprise her if Yevlia showed up at Grandmother’s house.

Her first magicks were worked in these woods singing honey bees to complacency so she could work her little hands in to steal some of the comb. Aeleres shut her eyes, still able to taste the thick sweetness and feel the wax warm against her tongue, softening to release its treasure. Here in the dappled sunlight, acorns dropping in the autumnal breeze she had shared her first kiss with Ashwin Robb. As far as first kisses went, it was the best you could hope for but it only cemented Ashwin’s suspicions he preferred kissing men. As for Aeleres, men were just as lovely as women.

Her feet found the well worn path from her childhood and carried her home. She rapped on the front door before letting herself in. Her heart clenched again when no smells of cooking greeted her nose. Whatever Grandmother’s faults had been, her constant cooking wasn’t among them.

“In here,” her mother called.

Aeleres went past bags and boxes of her grandmother’s things to find her mother in the kitchen. A kettle steamed softly on the cast iron stove. Her mother expected her to want tea. Mother knew best. Kissing her mother’s cheek, Aeleres tossed more wood into the stove to bring the water up to a rolling boil and nosed about to find the tin of tea leaves. While she waited on the tea, she sat at the kitchen table with her mother.

In front of them were tea pots, glass dishes and other ornaments and cups Aeleres has never seen. She picked up a glass candy dish of pressed glass in swirls of dark blues and purples.

“It’s beautiful. Where did this come from?” She set it down, gesturing to the table full of items. “Where did any of it come from?”

“In the cabinets.” Her mother nodded with her chin. “She was keeping it for good. Never saw her bring it out, not for company, not for holidays. Was she waiting for? Royals?”

Aeleres snorted. “What are you going to do with it all?”

“Keep some. You can pick from it too. Your cousins might want some. Otherwise it can for sale and charity at seaside.” Mother sighed, running her finger along the fluted edge of a glass fruit bowl. “I love glass but, Aeleres, never keep things for good. Make every day a holiday.”

“I try.”

Aeleres stood and poured the tea. She set the pot on the table. The sugar bowl was already there. “What about the house, Mom?”

“I wanted to talk to you about it.”

Sitting again, Aeleres swallowed past a tight throat. “I think I’d like to stay here for a while.”

Her mother blinked slowly then smiled. “I was hoping you’d want the house but you do so much work for the royals.”

She waved her off. “Half the time they’re just a few miles from here summering at the ocean. I can do just as much good here as I can there. If I want to go back and use the Academy’s library, I can find someone to watch the house for a while.”

Her mother heaved a deep sigh. “That is such a weight off.”

Aeleres sipped her tea, too aware her hand shook, nearly sloshing tea onto the piles of kitchen things on the table. Her great grandmother originally had the house built while pregnant with Aeleres’s grandmother. The house had stood here in the gully for a century and a year. The thought of it leaving the family made her push herself through translocation after translocation trying to get to the homestead one last time in case her mother wanted to sell it.

“We have to discuss the last ritual,” Mom said. Aeleres barely nodded, not wanting to think about it, no matter how necessary it might be.

Before they could breech that delicate topic, someone entered the house. A middle-aged woman, probably a few years younger than Aeleres strode into the kitchen with a ‘Hello, Wenna that died on her lips when she saw Aeleres. She gave Aeleres a quizzical look.

Aeleres returned it. She was lovely with long black hair untouched by frost. She had strong hands that showed her age a bit in their rough skin. Coal black eyes sparkled. No, not coal. That was a dull stone. Obsidian, dark, unknowable and shining. Intelligence lurked behind those eyes, intriguing Aeleres.

“Aeleres, this is Marike, your grandmother’s nurse.”

Smiling, Aeleres stuck out her hand. “Nice to me you.”

“Your grandmother told me a lot about you.”

Aeleres couldn’t contain her smile. “Really?”

“She was quite proud of you.”

Really? Aeleres thought, seeing as she’d only heard criticism on each and every choice she’d made. If she said grass was green, Grandmother would argue. “Thank you for that.” She wanted to ask Marike why she was here but couldn’t figure out a nice way to do that.

“I really liked your grandmother so I told Wenna I’d be happy to help you pack up here. I know how hard a task that can be.” Marike’s soft smile was more comforting than a hundred tender words.

Even in her numb mourning state, Marike’s beauty wasn’t lost on Aeleres. She wanted to know more, to spend time with this woman. Having her here helping satisfied that deep, surprising need. “Thank you but don’t you have other patients.”

Marike shook her head. “I do private nursing, one patient at a time so I’m at your disposal.”

“I’m looking forward to getting to know you,” Aeleres said. “Just tell me where to start.”

“Why don’t you and Marike start emptying the curio cabinet,” her mother said.

Aeleres nodded, stepping into the dining room. She stared at the large glass-fronted cabinet. She’s forgotten Grandmother collected bells. There was nothing Aeleres wanted to collect less. “We have our work cut out for us.”

“I can’t argue that.” Marike smiled again and Aeleres’s burden lifted. She never imagined a homecoming like this.

XXX

In the week Aeleres, Marike and Wenna spent organizing her grandmother’s cluttered house, taking time to sort out the items that could be given to charity, sold or kept as heirlooms. Marike came every day, trading stories and histories with Aeleres. It might be the wrong timing but Aeleres swore she saw a spark in Marike, a connection between them that was deeper than mere friendship.

“Aeleres, bring me that box on the dining room table,” her mother called from outside.

Marike helped Aeleres lug it out. Her mother sat where the stump of the pine tree that had stood in front of the house for much of Aeleres’s life. A small bonfire consumed it. The women placed the box next to the two empty chairs at Wenna’s side.

Wenna opened it, nodding. “Crumple the papers up and toss them in.” She nodded to the fire.

“Are you sure?” Aeleres asked.

“It’s a box of receipts from butchers and grocers dating back to before even I was born.” Her mother grinned.

Aeleres snorted, sitting down, Marike taking the other chair. Before Aeleres could start wadding up paper, her mother handed her an engraved box. Her heart caught. This was the moment she was dreading. Her gaze slid sideways to Marike wondering if she should ask her to go.

“Mom, are you sure?” she asked and Marike gave her a curious look.

“My magic has never been as strong as yours and I’m already old myself. It should be yours.”

Aeleres stared into the box. Her grandmother’s heart-stone rested on the blue velvet lining, like an egg of tourmaline.

“What is it?” Marike asked.

“Crystallized magic. It’s what’s left after a witch or wizard is cremated. It’s meant to be passed on to a family member, to add to their own magic.” Aeleres stroked its surface feeling the power thrumming under its warm surface. She proffered it to her mother one last time. Wenna should have it. She was next in line.

Shaking her head, her mother lifted the stone out, pressing it against Aeleres’s chest. Aeleres cupped it, opening her defenses. The stone melted into her, loosening her muscles, sending tendrils of magic throughout her.

Her mother kissed her cheek. “Use it well.” She stood. “I have some packing to do in the library. You two can handle this.”

“Thank you for letting me see this.” Marike nodded to the empty box.

“You’re welcome. You’re my friend. I wanted you to share in it. It’s usually done with more ritual and people but we’re a bit isolated here.” Aeleres waved a hand to the woods.

“I appreciate it all the same.” Marike tossed a handful of papers on the fire. “Let me repay it by taking you to my favorite place out at the beach when we’re done here.”

Aeleres felt her nerves sing and it wasn’t all from the heart-stone’s magic. “I’d love that.”

Marike took Aeleres’s hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. “Excellent.”

Aeleres squeezed back. The bonfire danced in front of them. The smoke was blue and grey and smelled like a promise.

Author’s Note : You can find the challenge here