April ’20 Twitter-splosion

All of April 2020’s twitter tales in a single collection for your convenience. April featured a serial tale of Ivy the fox…

fox GIF

APRIL

4/1/2020

Ivy the fox sniffed the country air, her empty stomach rumbled at the teasing aroma. Live #chicken. Hard to get, but worth the effort. Through the trees she glimpsed the farmhouse, lights out beneath the stars. Perfect for a silent raid.#vss365

4/2/2020

Silent as a night breeze Ivy pressed herself into the coop of sleeping hens. Her mouth watered as she crept forward one step at a time. Breath ruffled feathers, she held it as her open mouth reached for a neck. Clamp! The #kicking hen couldn’t even squawk.#vss365

4/3/2020

Clamping down tight on the neck, the hen’s fussing didn’t disturb the remainder of the birds. Swiftly, Ivy exited the coop through the door and traipsed across the pen. A clatter. She froze. Nothing happened. At her paw she saw a #rock rolling, the obvious source.#vss365

4/4/2020

Over the fence, one paw hold at a time, Ivy landed on the outside in silence. Her mouth watered for the dead hen’s neck against her teeth. A gust of wind sent a tree branch onto the tin roof. The yard burst into a blazing #orange light, the window bore cross hairs.#vss365

4/5/2020

This was a #classic scenario, Ivy thought as she stared at the blazing evidence inches from her paws that the farmer was awake. Shrouded in shadow the fox eyed the distance to the wood-line even as the thud of his boots reverberated in the silence. Freeze or dash?#vss365

4/6/2020

The hinges squealed as the door opened, boots thudded across the porch. The farmer stared down the sight of his gun. In the shadow of the moonless night, Ivy lay curled in a ball, the white of her tail tucked, bird hidden. Her glance into the #chrome bumper confirmed it.#vss365

4/7/2020

Ivy held her breath, the hen’s blood drew saliva to her mouth. She couldn’t move as she stared through the fur of her tail. Not until the farmer, who #craned his neck as he peered down the gun sight into his yard. Ivy’s heart throbbed against her ribs.#vss365

4/8/2020

“If someone’s there they’re about to join the 6-foot under #club.” The farmer hocked a loogie into the dirt right beside her. Ivy fought the urge to flinch, but the shifty eyes swept right over her as he wandered past the chicken coop.#vss365

4/9/2020

The twitch of the farmer’s finger #telegraphed his desire for vengeance for disrupted rest. Ivy suppressed a shudder as she glanced at the offending branch. The moment he looked away, her tail lashed out and knocked the branch toward him. He spun, gun muzzle first.#vss365

4/10/2020

If the farmer fired it wasn’t Ivy’s life she was concerned with, but those of her pups in #isolation. The den by the field’s creek. She held her breath as the man pulled the trigger. The bullet split the wood. “Stupid tree disruptin’ my sleep!” He stomped off.#vss365

4/11/2020

When silence descended Ivy peered through her tail. The light from the window was gone. The farmer’s desire to sleep had come to her #rescue, preventing him from examining further. The feast in her mouth, she uncurled and slipped through the wire fence, headed home.#vss365

4/12/2020

A true thief in the night, Ivy ran like a #desperado. With the hen in her mouth, she slunk though the underbrush. On the crest of a hill, the vixen paused, ears pricked as she held her breath, listening. Only her heartbeat echoed in her ears. She darted for the den.#vss365

4/13/2020

Safe inside the den Ivy greeted her squirming pups nose to nose. “1, 2, … where’s 3?”

“He went out to find you, mama. Across the #road .”

Ivy spun in the den, kicking the hen to the hungry pups, in a blur of orange she shot out chasing the scent of her wayward pup.#vss365

4/14/2020

Headlights flared, the roar of the engine deafened Ivy as searched from the #shelter of a bush for some sign of her kit. “Why does he have to take after me?” Ivy dashed out onto the stiff asphalt. The assault on her nose made it difficult to find her son’s scent.#vss365

4/15/2020

There it was, his scent in a wandering line, cut down the center line. Ivy followed the trail. Headlights appeared. A long silhouette with pointed ears stretched toward her. She’d never reach him. Tires screeched. She jumped, the shadow of the kit #tumbling into the dark.#vss365

4/16/2020

Once more the night lay silent. Ivy emerged from the protective brush and into the road. #Desolation. Nothing but asphalt beneath her paws to fill her desperate gaze. “Where are you?” she screamed into the silence. For her answer, silence remained unbroken.#vss365

4/17/2020

The impact of that silence #arrested her once racing heart. Ivy could not breathe, her paws rooted on the foreign asphalt. Her eyes stared out taking in everything and nothing. It seemed like an eternity before she found her voice, a soft pleading whine. “Are you there?”#vss365

4/18/2020

A toying scent on the wind cut through the oil reek. Ivy’s ears perked up. Paw by paw she inched toward the edge, ears pricked. The horizon tinged with a pale #blue, streaked with red. Morning had come and Ivy smelled blood.#vss365

4/19/2020

Ivy’s paws straddled the white #street line stained with streaks of blood. Fox blood. Patches of fur clung to the grass. Her heart stopped beating and sank into the pit of her stomach. Even from here she could smell it. Death.#vss365

4/20/2020

Ivy closed her eyes and raised her muzzle to the dawn, a long shrill cry of mourning left her throat. She did not have to see her son’s corpse to know he was gone from this world. A #dab of shadows drifted through the wood toward her.#vss365

4/21/2020

The shadow moved on soundless paws, edging toward Ivy. A voice soft as a breeze teased her ears. “You know what has summoned me.” Ivy’s gaze fell to the #ruby red stains in the leaves. She could not speak, but it did. “This is not your first loss.”#vss365

4/22/2020

Like some form of telegraph or #radio wave into her mind Ivy heard kit cries. A chorus from so long ago squeezing her heart until she curled into a paw. “Please! I beg you! Do not remind me of their fate!” The shadowy fox coiled around her. “But … I must.”#vss365

4/23/2020

“Death,” the black fox whispered, “is the price of life. Such a strange #oddity. None escape the great equalizer. Neither great nor small. Some however have a knack for evading me. Your kind is among the gifted, but not in their youth, Ivy, as you well know.” #vss365

4/24/2020

Tears welled in her eyes. “You are cruel!” Ivy creapt backward. The #damage was done. The black fox bobbed its head. “I am essential, sly one. It is I who ensures the continuation of your linage.” “By taking them?” “By eliminating the weak that the strong my flourish.”#vss365

4/25/2020

Ivy cringed at the decree. Plagued by the sensation of tiny paws against her fur. Little black #mittens, softly caressing from beyond the veil. What would they have been had the black fox not collected them so soon? His voice whispered, “Why, your death, sweet mother.”#vss365

4/26/2020

The black fox climbed upon her back. She had not expected a shadow to be a #heavyweight pressing her into the ground. In her dirt-bound struggle images sprang forth of verdant glades filled with butterflies … her kit-hood.#vss365

4/27/2020

Under the black fox’s paws Ivy struggled as memories turned. Blood drenched the dens. The #killing time and time again of kits and kin. “No!” She clawed at the ground, unable to free herself. “This can’t be!” In the field lay her own body. “Unless…” the fox whispered.#vss365

4/28/2020

The black fox flicked his tail and Ivy’s whole body tingled, engulfed in a gleaming #resurrection she leapt free of him only now realizing she had freshly healed wounds. The car…He glanced toward the kit’s lifeless body. “I must take one. Make your choice, Vixen.” #vss365

March Twitter’splosion

It’s been a weird month with the encroachment of the Covid-19. These micros area a reflection. Enjoy all of March #vss365 in one shot…

50 Creepiest Movie Psychopaths

MARCH

3/1/2020

Tensions built to a breaking point. Solutions seemed so obvious to those impacted, funds to rebuild. However, the elite knew how #bridging the gap could be achieved. They offered those made homeless from the disaster free packs of paper towels to mop up the flooding.#vss365

3/2/2020

He laughed when they said she’d intimidate him. He was, after all, a macho man. That was before he stood before her, subject to the fury brewing in her #Atlantic eyes. He’d met more than his match, and the siren displayed his false bravado for all to see.#vss365

3/3/2020

“Storm today.” Half-blind Pete gazed up at a seagull winging over the calm seas. Younger crews left port and laughed. That was until the gulls vanished as the #whitecaps appeared. The sky darkened at midday to black. Pete watched their ships sink from his docked ship.#vss365

3/4/2020

The great wide blue stretched from horizon to horizon below. The sky over the ocean—the dwelling of the #seagull. She soared over the tall masted vessels, guiding them to shore. Of course humanity had little patience, calling her kind rats with wings. That’s gratitude.#vss365

3/5/2020

The beach-side city stood tall and proud, ignorant of peril. Time demanded it pay #tribute to nature’s fury when the storm surge flooded the very foundations, washing away the land on which the city stood. A reminder that it never should have been built there.#vss365

3/6/2020

In the beginning #seventeen set out in the party to save their city. All seemed well, until their number became thirteen. At that point the paladin counted, recounted, and fled in a panic from his own superstition—right off a cliff. The remaining dozen returned victorious.#vss365

3/7/2020

I went cross-eyed for a moment staring at it. “Sir? There is a sizable gray box in the field of my vision.”

VP of Health answered, “That’s just a #patch.”

I blanched. “On a hazmat suit helmet?”

“Relax, you’ll be fine. The virus isn’t smart enough to get past the patch.”#vss365

3/8/2020

Beneath the oppressive pall society shut down, fearing that just one wrong move would land them in jail. Until a melody built in the air, a #spark of rebellion rapidly gained momentum and burnt a hole in the fabric, making way for progress.#vss365

3/9/2020

She trembled with every step toward the altar. Her heart thundered as she gathered the courage. The noble stood there, waiting expectantly for his obedient future wife. She halted at the bottom of the steps, took a deep breath and declared, “I am already #spoken for.”#vss365

3/10/2020

I leaned forward on the table as she returned. “So? What’s the #word?”

“He says he’ll tell you where he hid the ledger over his dead body.”

I moaned, “He doesn’t know?”

She caressed her crystal ball. “Nope, the stubborn ox is quite convinced he’s still alive. My fee?”#vss365

3/11/2020

She cooed at the puppy’s #unfathomable cuteness. “Oh my God, I’ve never seen anything more adorabl—OUCH!”

The foster laughed. “Nor useful. That pup is in shredder mode at the moment. Everything has a price, and for this one—it’s a pint of blood.”#vss365

3/12/2020

Skeletons lined very ash-strewn valley. Proof of the ravaged land’s #insurmountable challenge to the dinosaurs. Yet in the rubble life remained. Smaller, drought resistant, hearty. From the ashes the warm blooded mammals claimed the empty throne.#vss365

3/13/2020

“Is this #normal?” I looked at the desolate aisle, nothing but kittywampus empty shelves.

“Pretty much. When shit hits in the fan in prepper-ville folks want to make sure their ass is covered.”

“That was thousands of rolls of TP for how many residents?”

“Population twenty.”#vss365

3/14/2020

See the world, they said. Experience the sights, they said. There’s nothing like a #foreign country, they said. No one mentioned over two weeks forced to stare at the same four walls of my stateroom on a petri dish ship. Yup, that was an unbeatable sight.#vss365

3/15/2020

He ran his fingers through her hair. “I couldn’t love you any more, my little #stroopwafel.”

SLAP! For a long moment all he saw were flashing lights, til his vision cleared to her furious expression.

“What? I called you a cookie! Don’t go! Oh shit.” One crumby breakup.#vss365

3/16/2020

I blinked and looked again. Had that #mannequin just moved? No wait. A moment ago it didn’t have the top hat. Blink. Nor the ascot. What the…?

It smiled at me. “Never fully dressed without a smile, gov’ner.”

I ran and never returned to Mens Surplus again!#vss365

3/17/2020

Everyone stared, captivated by the speech, by the gestures, everything played out with precision. That was what gave it away for those with discerning eyes. Too precise. That “man” behind the podium was a #robot, programmed to deceive.#vss365

3/18/2020

Men in designer suits pounded fists, shouting over one another, they couldn’t possibly fund outreach programs the golf course came first. Ms. Peaches #kindergarten class lined the room edges in orderly fashion, waiting to address the council about tissue shortages.#vss365

3/19/2020

Bravery won Dirk the pirate captaincy when he sunk a navy vessel. That same bravery cost him his life when he attempted the same trick … with the avenging #armada. #vss365

3/20/2020

“Follow the checklist. We must be highly #organized here for safety reasons.”

“Boss, why is there a space in the storage rack?”

“Oh fuck! Who took a vial without signing it out of the microbiology lab?”

“How bad?”

“Oh God, oh God, we’re all gonna die.”#vss365

3/21/2020

Augustus was obsessed with anything Japanese, to his family’s displeasure. When he died he took cultural appropriation to an extreme. His epitaph was a stolen whimsical #haiku. Due to copyright most was removed from the stone. “Smile, cherry blossom” is all that remains.#vss365

3/22/2020

“Seriously, we’re never going to find the treasure. This clue is too damn hard!”

“Son of a–! I should have noticed the clue is an #acrostic poem. First letters spell CLUELESS.”

“What does that mean?”

“I don’t have a clue.”#vss365

3/23/2020

“I shouldn’t’ve run away. If there is one thing I’ve learned, life’s #short.”

I stared at the boy on the park bench beside me swinging his legs. We’d been talking for an hour when in the blink of an eye he vanished into thin air.

I dialed a number. “I love you, Mom.”#vss365

3/24/2020

Mama told me babies are brought by a #stork. I laughed and told her baby brother’s had it easy since he was so small. Mama cried and held me close, her eyes watching the crib where he lay still. “He didn’t come that way, honey. A scarlet ibis brought him on borrowed time.”#vss365

3/25/2020

The gull winged over the seaport. Below a #cosy village sprawled, draped in glorious spring blooms. She called out and waited for a reply, one that never came. Not a soul dwelt there now, a living one anyway. Each roof hid a collection of plague corpses.#vss365

3/26/2020

“Oh my God! After being stranded and going without food, this is absolutely #delicious! Is there any more?” No one gathered around answered Ralph as the sun-beaten life raft drifted onward. He shrugged and grabbed another hunk of meat from his silent partners. “Mmm!”#vss365

3/27/2020

“Do you think storms have feelings?”

“Good question.”

“Think about how calm things feel after a major thunderstorm.”

“Or a tornado. Hell, that’s the biggest #outblowing of them all. Even Mother nature needs a little stress relief.” #vss365

3/28/2020

“Damn it! He got everything he wanted, again! Meanwhile we didn’t get a thing!”

“Of course he did. I wouldn’t pay the price though.”

“What do you mean?”

“Not worth being that scumbags boot-licking #toad. I’d rather starve.”#vss365

3/29/2020

I never understood why Rocco chased his tail. Such a pointless activity. After weeks of self isolation revelation struck as I discovered myself spinning in circles in pursuit of my own #butt. The same four walls ran by a blur. I get it buddy, I get it now.#vss365

3/30/2020

“Is there a point to sailing the ocean forever, captain?”

“Any day now we’ll find it, #Finisterre!”

“The uh…the end of the Earth? Umm, you do know the Earth is round.”

“It’s fools like you who sail off into the void!”

“Right, and who’s done that?”

“Sven the Nearsighted!”#vss365

3/31/2020

“This AI shopper thing is going to far.”

“What now?”

“Well, it thinks I need a #zarf.”

“What’s that?”

“No idea, but apparently I have a set of them coming by breakfast tomorrow.”#vss365

February Twitter-splosion

In the leap year we get one more in February… so here is all twenty-nine Micro stories in a Tweet through the Twitter prompt #vss365. I didn’t do a theme this month. just wrote wherever the prompt took me. So get comfy…

safe for work puppy GIF

FEBRUARY

2/1/2020

Mother Earth fostered growth for eons. All across her surface animals of all kinds roamed in a delicate balance. Until one went off #script and declared itself removed from the animal kingdom. An age of tough love followed. The earth remains, the arrogant one is gone.#vss365

2/2/2020

“You’re excited about this? I mean, it’s a large rodent. I really have to question your #sanity.”

May waved her Groundhog Day banner. “Come on, sis, it’s just a bit of fun. No one really believes it.”

… Years passed in his shadow. Spring never came.#vss365

2/3/2020

The family gathering stifled her, as always. A stranger in her own skin. They never even noticed as she walked away into the secluded corner, one hand pressed against the wall. It glowed and open into her own world, her #fantasy, a reflection of the changling she was.#vss365

2/4/2020

It started as a little irritation. Just a nagging thought. Gradually it built, growing into a #frantic obsession until it drove me to distraction. I had no choice but to voice my concern. Now I have a wonderful padded room and a snugly fitting wardrobe to hug me tight.#vss365

2/5/2020

“I’m telling you, you’re wrong. Hold on a second. I’ll show you!” He disappeared into the library and came back with an #atlas dropping it on the table. Pointing at the map he declared, “See? The world is flat!”

It was going to be a long day discussing curved lines.#vss365

2/6/2020

Ben scoffed at me when I told him to toss spilt salt over his shoulder. “I have no place for a childish #ritual in my life!”

Well, he was right. At his apartment all we found was a scorch mark on the floor. No Ben. Hope he’s happy with his new job in hell.#vss365

2/7/2020

Sara banished disbelief as she entered the #enchanted forest. Wondrous beasts filled the wood. But her eyes scanned past them longing for the rarest. The thump of hooves caught her attention. She turned just in time for the disintegration spell. Unicorns are territorial.#vss365

2/8/2020

In a job market as poor as this, Jim didn’t dare to quit under the physical strain. His foreman worked him hard as the days grew longer. He didn’t notice the extra hair, the braying laugh, the lengthening of ears. At length he became another mindless #mule in the stable.#vss365

2/9/2020

There he was, all bluster and mane. The rogue came up to claim her. But the lioness’s claws slashed his hide. She’d had enough of their kind. Behind her in the grass, something far more precious. These were her cubs, not his to murder. He lost to mother’s #pride. #vss365

2/10/2020

“Just one #request, you must love me for eternity.”

When he asked me that it seemed such a natural answer. Of course, the son of a bitch didn’t tell me how much immortality sucks. Gah, why are they bringing THAT era back?#vss365

2/11/2020

I stood alone in the world. No, against the world. Not that I wanted to be. It’s just nature. Most of the time no one really knows the truth. But for 3 nights a month I have an #ally. The moon reveals my truth and sets my nature free!#vss365

2/12/2020

Muscles burned like fire consuming the grasslands. Lungs clogged with the smoke. Still I ran on with the flames singeing my fur. The rest of the pack already fallen behind. Our leader, a poor #judge of the danger, I feared we would all pay the price.#vss365

2/13/2020

The locust queen hovered in the sky and declared to her swarm, “Now we shall claim our #empire!” They spread across the land, claiming everything edible. For their ambition, they left in their wake a vast sea of carcasses in a desolate land. Not even the queen survived.#vss365

2/14/2020

Padding along in the Savannah in the hot sun, I didn’t spare a glance back over my shoulder. What was the point? Another painted wolf rode my shoulder. “We’re short one.”

“I know. Mother Nature’s a bitch.”

#Rookie mistake, never trust the water, crocodile domain.#vss365

2/15/2020

Death laughs at us all. You don’t believe me? Then why is the death mask a #parody of a smile? We find no humor in it, but assuredly someone does.#vss365

2/16/2020

Moonlight cast down through the broken arches. I sat alone, in silence, gripping a talisman to my chest. The bombs had ceased to fall, but they had taken all I knew. No, not all. Our #creed, I clung to that last vestige of my heritage: “Death first”. They would pay.#vss365

2/17/2020

“I know what’s best for the world.” The man spat into the microphone. “That’s why it’s good I control all this money.”

In the shadows the demon, #Greed, sharpened his claws, preparing a place in hell. “Lie to yourself all you want. The bill will come due.”#vss365

2/18/2020

I am one of you, all the outward signs informed. Passing through the defenses everything seemed normal. But the cells could not have been more wrong! Their mistake allowed the virus to #infiltrate, to hijack, and to force normal cells to replicate it from safely inside.#vss365

2/19/2020

She was so sad as she wrapped her arms around me and stroked my ears. My tail thumped on the floor as her heartbeat settled and her sobs dwindled. I licked her cheek. This was my job. This was my #purpose. Bring comfort to those who needed a warm paw.#vss365

2/20/2020

The words thundered in my ears in time with my heartbeat, in time with my steps. I was a #soldier of destiny. Before this moment I hadn’t known what that meant, just a mantra as we trained in barren fields. Now those fields were filled with blood.#vss365

2/21/2020

The boss cracked his knuckles, flanked by his goons. “I’ll give you one change to switch sides. You can either be part of the problem, or the #solution. So which will it be?”

I pulled out my knife, this was my turf. “Right now my middle name is Problem.”#vss365

2/22/2020

Millennia passed in a geologic blur populated by the chaos of the rise of man. Rise he did. After the fall to his own territorial devices, the animal kingdoms reclaimed their niches and #peace reigned for millennia more without his brutal tyranny scarring the land.#vss365

2/23/2020

“So there are different levels?”

The scholar folded her hands. “Indeed. There is the common, at fault by ignorance. Their is the huge, who seems to blunder. And then there is the #royal pain in the ass who knows precisely what he is doing in the worst way possible.”#vss365

2/24/2020

All eyes turned to her at the top of the stairs. Draped in the most enchanting fabrics she was a vision, the #belle of the ball. But that wasn’t why they stared. The viper coiled around her shoulders like a stole commanded their attention. She was not to be trifled with.#vss365

2/25/2020

“I’m telling you it’s the strangest thing.” The butler pointed at the decanter. “At 3am every night it empties. Stayed up and watched it!”

The maid laughed. “The previous owner died in this parlor during a party. It’s just him partaking of his favorite #spirits.”#vss365

2/26/2020

Towers of white stone rose towards the sky, a marvel of human innovation. From a distance it was stunning. Inside it was deserted to all save the bones of those who once lived here and the #vermin who brought them down crawling over them. The ruthless plague.#vss365

2/27/2020

Bjorn always had been the most determined viking. He lived by the saying “life’s a journey not a #destination”. When they tried to ignite his funeral boat it wouldn’t take, the vessel drifted off toward the horizon. Apparently he insisted death would be a journey too.#vss365

2/28/2020

The meadow lay cloaked in mist, submerged in #deathly silence. Welcoming as Death drifted through parting the fog to reveal the fallen soldiers baring colors from both sides. Their pointless wrath made Death’s job so much swifter.#vss365

2/29/2020

The cult lined up around him, screaming our praise and adoration. He stood on the dais in the center of the compound. “Humanity is sick. We will #purge it!” Their cheers reverberated, until his planted explosives blew a massive crater. He and his naive cult were no more.#vss365

January Twitter-splosion!

It’s a new year! And out comes the first month of #vss365 prompted micro-flashes! This month featured a role player theme with a party of … well … not so gifted heroes. Enjoy the hijinks! They may wander onto the scene from time to time.

game of thrones look at the fun we're having GIF

JANUARY

1/1/2020

On the stroke of midnight the old year stole away like the #charlatan it was. Let it take my broken dreams with it into the night. For in the new day and this new year I ignite fresh ones with a resolve to bring them to light. Time will not be a thief to me.#vss365 #HappyNew2020

1/2/2020

The tome lay open before me. I held my hands wide, prepared to cast the spell that would save our world. A whisper on the wind toyed in my ears and suddenly the letters #obfuscated the words. Shit! Laughter. I turned to see the sorcerer in a victory dance, “You’re doomed!”#vss365

1/3/2020

His pelt was as night, stars swallowing the light like black holes. The dark #unicorn stared down his horn, voice like thunder, “The light one, she is the beast of creation.” His horn touched the ground and it decomposed. “My power is not so benevolent.”#vss365

1/4/2020

Look deep into the mirror, though they warned me not to. I could not deny the twisted gleam in the corner of my eyes, a betrayal of #latent darkness within. Now I understood why the sparks came to my fingertips. Keep it hidden, don’t let them know I know the truth.#vss365

1/5/2020

“Damn it! Why didn’t someone notice the medallion on that asshole before we buried him. Now who the hell brought a shovel?”

The necromancer pushed up his sleeves. “Relax, with me around the corpse will #disinter itself. Just say the magic word.”

“Tch, please?”#vss365

1/6/2020

The summoning circle glowed, smoke billowed as the monstrous form manifested. I threw my head back in victory. Revenge would be mine! “Roar my mighty vassal of fury!”

“#yip”

I blinked as the smoke cleared. “A pomeranian? Shit! No more spell book orders from Amazon.”#vss365

1/7/2020

“Son of a—stupid door! How are we gonna get through?”

The mage stepped up and thrust his hand at it “Opensaysme!” Nothing happened. “#Obviate!” Nothing. “Uh, remove!” Nadah. “Vanish, dammit!”

POOF.

“Oh hey, that was easy. Just needed the right magi-thesaurus entry.”#vss365

1/8/2020

The paladin called down a bolt of lightning, nothing left behind. “Nobody likes a #usurper who bends the words of a god to their own ends!”

The druid cocked an eyebrow. “Screw that, what kinda screwball tries to take over the world via a pomeranian? That’s fucked up, man.”#vss365

1/9/2020

“The leg bone connected to the hip bone. Not anymore!” The barbarian threw his target. “Fun with #kinetic energy.”

“I told you guys, this is what happens when a science geek RPs a tank!”

“Alright, now let’s calculate the angle to throw him into the dragon’s mouth. Tangent …”#vss365

1/10/2020

“I hear your party is looking for a rogue. Kinda odd to advertise.”

“Eh? The last guy got a bit too #inquisitive.”

“Trap?”

“Nope. Mage’s bag of holding. He’s still there, I think.”#vss365

1/11/202

The rogue gripped his blade staring out at the enemy army. “You’d think they had something to fight for. Sure are a #lively lot.”

The bard stepped up, lute in her hand and smiled. “Just wait.”

Plugging his ears he sighed, “Can’t fight the music.”#vss365

1/12/2020

“Alright, snow gear, folks, this 1K mile journey to <yawn> huh? Oh hey, keep, another beer. Zzzzz” THUD.

Everyone looked at the bard, who grinned and ceased her humming. “Hope the paladin enjoys his #languor-over. I really don’t care for the cold.”

The rogue guffawed.#vss365

1/13/2020

“Haha!” The barbarian cheered at the chest of gems. “We’re rich! New ax here I come.”

The rogue peered at one and smirked. “No dice, bro. These aren’t real. Just #opaline glass. Looks like the townsfolk worked us for free.”

“Pay in BLOOD!” He brandished the dull ax.

“Shit.”#vss365

1/14/2020

A plate dripping of meat and gravy lay before the barbarian. The druid screamed, “Damn you! That’s where my companion went!”

The barbarian shrugged, “My diet needed more #fibrous content. Nothing was tougher than him.”#vss365

1/15/2020

The mage winced as the opposing party slid down into slumber, this wasn’t his doing. He eyed the bard as she stood triumphantly and waved jazz-hands. “Seriously? The #flourish isn’t necessary. Sleeping men can’t see it.”

“Hmph, it’s called style points, sourpuss.”#vss365

1/16/2020

“Sing it again, bard.” The paladin leaned against the prison bars as the rogue scowled.

“Who would have thought,” the bard replied, “we’d end up here because the rogue’s #yearning for a girl named Ruby, the sheriff’s daughter.”

“Caught with his hands on the family jewels.”#vss365

1/17/2020

“By the description of the villagers we’re looking for something #riparian.” The druid slowly looked up from studying the map, the whole party in blank stares. “You know, a river creature?”

“Oh! Yeah, why didn’t you just say that?”#vss365

1/18/2020

The party’s horses ran full tilt, angry pitchfork wielding villagers in their wake. “Well, this is a terrible #muddle!” The paladin glared at the bard. “You are NOT a virgin!”

“Ok, I get it! That’s the last time I use a Madonna cover in a spell!”#vss365

1/19/2020

“We’re about to meet his most highest honorable king of the region, so it’s important to #articulate. Don’t make him ask for a clarification.”

As the party entered the room, the berserker blurted, “Yo, your hindass!”

“Excuse me?” The king shot forward.

“Dungeon ho.” #vss365

1/20/2020

“Such a sweet, lovely woman. The scent of #jasmine truly be-YAWN-comes you zzz.” The paladin fell forward off the bed to face plant into the floor with a loud thump.

“It also covers the aromatic sedative.” The assassin pulled out her gleaming knife.#vss365

1/21/2020

The berserker tugged on the horse’s reins. “It’s just water, you #obstinate fool! You have to drink!”

The druid tugged back a bush and revealed a dead shrew family. “His stubbornness just saved our lives. This stream is poisoned.”

“Uh, I knew that.”#vss365

1/22/2020

“And next in my grand exploits,” the paladin continued with a hand to his breastplate.

The bard eyed the rest of the party. “And you all complained about me. At least my #rigmarole was for a legit distraction, not picking up chicks!”#vss365

1/23/2020

The druid rammed her fists in her ears and shouted, “What is that #cacophony?”

The paladin sighed, “Apparently the rogue thinks he’s a bard now and is convinced that playing mugs will earn the heart of a tavern wench. Just gives me a headache.”#vss365

1/24/2020

“Yo rogue, you wouldn’t #happen to know where my necklace is? You know, that family heirloom?” The mage dug through his chest. “Uncle Flaygar really hated when people took his things, used to curse everything he owned.”

Beads of sweat rolled down the rogue’s forehead.#vss365

1/25/2020

The mage stood with outstretched arms over the courtyard. Below the guards danced merry jigs, elbows into locked. “And now, A Chorus Line!”

“You never cease to #amaze me, mage!” The paladin applauded.

The bard grumbled, “Seriously? Camelot’s the obvious choice!”#vss365

1/26/2020

There it was, the row of arrows in the dirt betraying the citadels #range. The berserker danced just beyond it. “Haha! You pricks can’t get us!” The groan of a large siege engine under pressure squelched his bravado. “Ok, maybe you can! RUN!”

“Way to start a war, genius!”#vss365

1/27/2020

The paladin stared at the thick forest, “We have no idea where our #adversaries are.”

The bard gave a cheeky grin and pulled out her bagpipes. Three notes into Danny Boy and the woods thrashed with men covering their ears. “Works every time!”

“You’re a sadist.”#vss365

1/28/2020

“Sorry, but I’m spent.” The mage leaned heavily against the wall. “We’re going to need a true miracle now.”

The party turned to the paladin. He cringed. “Well I #could, except I’m still on my deity’s blacklist.”

“Told you that date with a priestess was crossing a line.”#vss365

1/29/2020

The bard leaned on the counter. “Trust me, no one in this world can compete with my friend here.”

The paladin grinned, thrusting his chest out.

“He is the most #tremendous prick yo–”

He clamped a hand over the bard’s mouth. “Ok, thank you, that’s too much honesty!”#vss365

1/30/2020

“So here’s the plan, we have the bard stand at the entrance and distract the monster while the rogue does a sneak attack.”

“Wait a second. You have a better attack, paladin!”

“Yes, but the bard is #extra annoying and you are expendable. So we have that. Let’s go.”#vss365

1/31/2020

“Don’t go in there!” The rogue was a touch too late as the mage opened the door to be pummeled by the scent of flowers pervading his chambers. “The druid thought it needed a little refreshing.”

“Isn’t this just #rosy.”

“It’s almost Valentines Day. Maybe she likes you.”#vss365

December Twitter-Splosion

Every day a different prompt, every day a different tale in a Twitter! Here is all of December’s in one shot. A wild collection of humor, morbidity, and whatever else popped into my head.

DECEMBER

It’s been a year!

cowboy bebop finger guns GIF

12/1/2019

Blue sky, an ill wind blew as I soared over the white capped waves. No gull who longed to live ignored such an #omen. I opened my beak and cried out the warning. Squall! The tall ship sailed out of the harbor. Wind tore at my feathers as I fought to warn them. Turn back!#vss365

12/2/2019

“But mama, aren’t we supposed to hoard treasure and stuff?”

In the crystal cave Drhak’raria lifted her head and smiled down at her whelp. “Some dragons do. But you can’t consume gold. Eat your #crystal, dear so you can grow up strong enough to devour other dragons.” #vss365

12/3/2019

Hail fell into the high beams, #rice from the leaden heavens. I pushed the pedal harder.

“Honey, maybe we should pull over?”

“It’s the holidays, we can’t be late!” A second later, the road skidded out from beneath us.#vss365

12/4/2019

Never mess with a kitsune. There’s a reason those vixens have nine tails, it represents their #fickle nature. One minute they lavish you with the deepest love possible. The next their claws rake sufficient to make you wish you were dead!#vss365

12/5/2019

She turned and smiled at him. Not a comforting smile, but one that sent a shiver down his spine. Frozen he could not move. “They call me the sadistic #guru. And you, my foolish trespasser, are about to learn why.” He didn’t see the strike, but he felt it in his liver.#vss365

12/6/2019

“You’re such a nerd.”

“I am a #pixel warrior! I am undefeated! SHIT!”

“Except by a power outage.”#vss365

12/7/2019

Underneath the #amber lights the world shimmered in the rain. A beautiful sheen that lent a magical quality to the city. A place that lay in stillness populated by the bones left behind of a race that failed to adapt. Fate is a cruel bitch.#vss365

12/8/2019

She pads on paws soft as #velvet, silent against the pavement. Making her way through the city no movement escapes her eyes. There is a reason not even a mouse stirs on the Eve, it is her doing. The kiss of death, Holly, the master mouser of all seasons.#vss365

12/9/2019

Save the world, like real life is based on a novel starring a plucky hero. In reality I have as much #sway as a fly landing on a suspension bridge coil while some crazy yahoo standing on the deck cuts it with a chain saw. At least in my vision I have wings. He doesn’t.#vss365

12/10/2019

Light shimmers pierced the darkness of the chamber I have inhabited for what seems an eternity. Vision, a sense I have long forgone in my solitude. Is the light real? Or merely a cruel #mirage, painful to eyes that have not seen in years? Reality seems the illusion.#vss365

12/11/2019

“Heyya, Grandma? Quick, what’s the best way to #curry favor with a demon? Asking for a friend.”

“Why you lookin’ ov’r your shoulder?”

“Ummm … well … I may have opened that trunk you told me never to touch.”

“Then you shit out a luck, child. No one befriends that ‘un.”#vss365

12/12/2019

I stared at the #serpentine stone in my hand, squiggles of bright green seeming to swim, locked in a black sea. Like magic. I focused hard, remembering the tome’s words. The rock shivered, a hundred tiny eyes opened as my minions sprang to life.#vss365

12/13/2019

I flick the blinker on and glance over into the middle lane, waiting to merge. The red Porsche pulls forward, seeing a half car length between me and the van. She wedges the nose of her can in. Blocked. She’s lucky I #vow no vehicular aggression at a hospital driveway!#vss365

12/14/2019

Visions twist and turn to my will. I had always been a #lucid dreamer, shaping to my desires behind closed eyes. What a shock it must have been to see their world change before their eyes when mine were wide open too. Welcome to my twisted reality.#vss365

12/15/2019

Light spreads a #pastel hue into the velvet sky. Another day begins washed out and empty as I wander down the hillside for a visit. The stone cold on my back. The deep cut letters say you’re here. I linger locked in silence, waiting for the comfort of night to fall.#vss365

12/16/2019

“One cannot #wring blood from stone.”

The necromancer folded his hands and smiled. “One can if one possesses the skills and said stone is fossilized bones.” He snapped his fingers and the figures unfolded from the cavern floor. “Foolish mortal.”#vss365

12/17/2019

A stitch in my side. A tiny #sliver of pain nagging, nagging, always nagging! I long to forget, but the constant stab of the thing I cannot remove has become a part of me, driving me to madness as I long to scratch an unreachable itch. A vile memory eroding my sanity.#vss365

12/18/2019

“You will not have the world, sorcerer! Because I have the magical orb!” CRASH! “Shit!”

My companion buried her face. “Real #suave, butterfingers. You do know there was only one of those.”

“Mwhaha! You just paved the way for my victory. Bravo, hero.”#vss365

12/19/2019

I close my eyes and fade away. The pain, the suffering, the bitter rivalry that is what some call the real world. It’s vulgar and empty. I embrace my #virtual world. A place built to hide from the nightmare of reality. A place of healing refuge in the eye of a storm.#vss365

12/20/2019

“Some heroes we are. Stuck in a frickin’ cave! Alright wizard, time to magic us outta here so we can save the world.”

“Hrm, I have a #profound feeling we’ve seriously fucked up.”

“Geh! That better be sarcastic.”

“We have about an hour of air left. Last words?”

“Son of a-”#vss365

12/21/2019

The embers die into a soft cheery #glow framed in the stones. I smile, warmed by the crackle-pop of the flames deep within still eating away. Feast, my friend. Well, the documents said he got the house … he can have what’s left of it. Merry Christmas, asshole!#vss365

12/22/2019

Moonlight cast it glow across the floor, tinged red in time for the holidays. I sit in the easy chair warming myself by the fire, a glass of cognac in hand. Through the broken window the sound of blood dripped down the #icicle my hit man eavesdropped on. How festive.#vss365

12/23/2019

The table creaked under the weight of the largest dish of #pudding the village had ever seen. Narka held her hands high and silence descended. “Today we celebrate our victory! No more will our enemies call us weak. No more shall they speak!” Vengeance in blood pudding.#vss365

12/24/2019

I awoke in the locked room, my arms bound to my body, the odd sound like a #jingle bell tinkling from the hallway. I dared not call out as the white clad orderly peered through the slat, a ring of keys on his belt. What a Christmas present, committed to Bedlam by Father.#vss365

12/25/2019

Curled in my arms, his fur shifted against my cheek with every breath. All the years of his life counted in each tick of the clock. My heart ached to feel his shudder. Midnight chimed, before the last #grace granted Ashenpaw mercy. The bitterest Christmas morning ever.#vss365

12/26/2019

The snow is cold beneath my paws, a sensation I welcome in this new form after the ache of life. I faded from reality and embraced death thinking it would be a numb void. Instead I rise to #find a world of deep feeling. More alive than I was in life, I spread my wings.#vss365

12/27/2019

The world below the surface of the waves, my world. Smooth scales slid by pillars of #coral flashing delicate fronds of tiny creatures, my subjects. Bubbles rose up from the intruders, landwalkers performing their last task. A death wish. Venom filled my fangs.#vss365

12/28/2019

The moon shown over the valley cutting shadows into the fresh snow. My nose caught the scent in the tracks. One of them was injured. In my throat the cry arose, piercing the heavens. Moments later the pack answered in #harmony. The wolf pack’s litany of death.#vss365

12/29/2019

Behind closed eyes everything changes. A #circus of fantastic beasts dance in colorful rings bedecked in finery fit for the highest courts. All those who had vexed me during the day met their judgment by tooth and claw. The next day, I woke to find them simply gone.#vss365

12/30/2019

I swear the moment I walked into my grandparents no one recognized me. It was as if each family member had lived in a #cocoon for the last year, ignoring the hard work I had done. “You look terrible,” grandma said, “should take better care of yourself.”#vss365

12/31/2019

“Hold my beer!” He took a running leap off the roof, poorly executed thanks to the alcohol marinade. The result? A plummet straight down missing the mattress target and striking the trashcans. We clapped as he moaned, cheering, “#Encore!” My brother is a glutton for pain.#vss365

November Twitter-splosion

The collection of Very Short Stories from the #vss365 prompts on Twitter, all in one shot! This month it’s just an array of wild off the cuff craziness. You know, normal for me.

NOVEMBER

11/1/2019

Rumor has it, I got a short #fuse. It’s funny, I guess from their perspective the shit only just hit the fan. Well, in my shoes they’d know better. They’d know the impact of every word they slung my way recklessly. Well, corpses can never hurt anyone, who’s laughing now?#vss365

11/2/2019

I asked my grandpa if our lives were predetermined. He laughed, “Oh child, life’ll try all sort of tricks to keep you inline. Fate’ll #cuff to the wheel, if you let it. Thing is, you still have your hand on the wheel in a world without roads.” Grandpa’s had 8 accidents.#vss365

11/3/2019

Sam closed her eyes. The tedious complaints of the man in line #grated on her nerves. It wasn’t like the cashier could save the world. At last, Sam stepped up to the cashier, whose eyes filled with dread. Sam just smiled, and got a smile back. They savored blessed silence.#vss365

11/4/2019

I gripped the sack tight, this was my first harvest and I didn’t want to drop anything as I climbed through the cavern. The chamber opened up lined with the #crop of crystal shards. I touched a black one, and recalled the legend just as something stole my body. I turned …#vss365

11/5/2019

Amber smiled as she stared right where here friend pointed at. Everything, the whole universe would come into focus, they all told her. Just breathe. She inhaled the smoke and resumed her search for clarity in the resulting #haze. Wasn’t much, but it sure was pretty.#vss365

11/6/2019

The man sat down in my chair and removed his hat. “Just a #trim, please.” I grinned into the reflection of my razor, already she sang to me, hungry for rubies. I placed her fine edge to his throat and gave him the closest shave he’d ever have. Within an inch of his life.#vss365

11/7/2019

Legend says to #tread lightly if you have to go through Mirewood. Of course, legends also say that there are unicorns and little folk. I don’t believe those either. Besides, I brought my rifle … what the … That a horse with a horn? No way, so swuuuucckkkk!#vss365

11/8/2019

“Did you hear, Trudy has a #crush on Dan. That’s so sweet.”

I raised my eyebrows and watched a monster truck roll by, Trudy scowled behind the wheel. “Dude, check your ears. I believe her exact words were ‘I’m going to crush Dan.’ ”#vss365

11/9/2019

Their eyes burned into me as I stood barefoot on the pyre of their scorn. An ember caught on a torch and flared to life, fed by the hunger for my death. It did not matter to them I #spoke the truth. No—it did matter. Their unjust fear delivered me to this grim fate.#vss365

 

11/10/2019

“Welcome to the first transdimensional Convention. Please step forward and pay the #troll.”

“You mean, toll. Right?”

“Oh no, I mean Groont the security troll. Have a good time!”#vss365

11/11/2019

Maximus thought himself an innovative leader able to conquer any nation on the continent. All of that proved true. That was until he decided the continental empire wasn’t large enough, and neglecting to start a navy, he ordered his army to #march over the sea.#vss365

11/12/2019

Things were quiet on that little blue ball floating in space, Loki thought to himself. Perhaps it was time to #crank up the chaos. He snapped his fingers and Fenrir’s chain broke. The gigantic wolf leapt down, his claws raked both man and earth. “That’s more like it.”#vss365

11/13/2019

The #wind speaks to me. Sometimes a whisper bearing the ghosts of the past. Sometimes it screams to me of the ravages of time eroding the world. Sometimes it’s a lover’s caress biding me to be strong in a world that no longer hears the wisdom of the ages. I alone listen.#vss365

11/14/2019

“This is just another walk in the park. You know the #drill, boys.” That’s what I said, but as the sulfur and brimstone engulfed us at the cavern entrance I white-knuckled my spear. Thankfully it wasn’t every day a dragon moved into the neighborhood. “Eviction notice!”#vss365

11/15/2019

This place is all I have ever known. Born behind bars, I’ve heard of this thing called “a lawn”. Sounds nice. The boy points into my cage, his parents drag him to another dog … a whole dog. I limp back into the corner. One day I’ll leave the #pound, if I live long enough.#vss365

11/16/2019

Anubis rubbed his chin as he examined the world. “Things are not going as planned, Sekhmet. I don’t care what Toth says, this #draft of Earth is deeply flawed. The problem is all these humans.” Sekhmet flashed her teeth, “That’s easily solved, get your scale ready.”#vss365

11/17/2019

“That boy has a lot of #pluck. Do you think he’ll save the village?”

“Are you kidding? He’s nothing but a goose for the gods to tenderize. But don’t tell him that. The gods prefer spirited sacrifices. Maybe next years crops will be better, then we can sing his praises.”#vss365

11/18/2019

There was nothing like dancing the #jive with her. The weight of her body capturing the momentum only to twist and turn. He basked in the memories, gnarled fingers stroking the piano keys. Soon now he would see her again, in each other’s arms.#vss365

11/19/2019

Jim sat on the bumper of the car. Karma really was a bitch, he reflected. The sign he’d held, California or #bust, well, he didn’t mean it to be true. The driver that picked him up was still arguing with the cop whose fault the collision was. So much for Sunset Boulevard.#vss365

11/20/2019

“How do you spell his name?”

“Oh my God, please sis, I beg of you, #play nice!”

“I am. Just need his name so I can kill him … in my novel. It lasts longer.”#vss365

11/21/2019

The field glowed beneath the pale sky blossoming with the rising sun framed by the monoliths. They stood, every breath hanging in the air frozen until at last the blackbird greeted the dawn. Her #refrain warmed every heart. No day was promised until she sang.#vss365

11/22/2019

Rod heaved a sigh as he stared at the candle, hardly any wax dripping down the perfect cylinder. Like so many others it ended early. The first #date was always the last. He turned to Annabelle and picked the doll up from the chair. “Guess it’s still just you and me.”#vss365

11/23/2019

Charity heaved a sigh. “You’re asking a lot of me, typically this type of gig isn’t my thing.”

“It’s real simple, all you gotta do is crash this schmuck’s house and scare the spirit of Christmas into him. Any ghost can do it.”

“That’s a lot to #tackle, the guy’s an atheist.”#vss365

11/24/2019

The music wound into my soul, moving me in ways no one ever should be. I don’t have wings, but I flew! All around me the dance floor vibrated with the emotional impact of countless creatures. You’ve never lived until you’ve attended an underworld #rave.#vss365

11/25/2019

“Gah! Seriously? Stop breathing on me. Your breath smells like … like … ”

“The Army of Nabrille? It should, they were tasty.”

“Then eat a #mint, even dragons should have table manners.”#vss365

11/26/2019

Back and forth she wove the shuttle on the #loom blending the threads in a vast tapestry. I stood powerless to stop her as my thread joined others, wrapped in scarlet red and ashen black, blood and death. “Take up your mantle.” Damn the Fates.#vss365

11/27/2019

Under the #lash I serve my master, doing his bidding without question. My claws sullied by the blood of his enemies. That cursed tool is my true master, now in the hands of his sister I turn my claws at her command. The end of his bloody reign is the beginning of hers.#vss365

11/28/2019

My world is locked in darkness. Black so thick it bears fur and breathes. The cave of beginnings. I inhale the void and steel myself. Against the rock I #strike a match. The flame springs to life, a faint circle of revelation. Eyes stare back. The fur no longer imaginary.#vss365

11/29/2019

Jimmy smiled, wouldn’t the family be proud of him for getting the best deal online! This would be perfect for grandpa. He opened the front door and stared in confusion. That was a rather small box. The label read “chihuahua coffin”. What a bad funeral day #slip up!#vss365

11/30/2019

“Master, what do you want me to do with this #part?”

He glanced at the nerve bundled organ in his assistant’s hands. “Crap, there’s always extra pieces. Just throw it out. Can’t be that important. Alright, let’s juice it up and bring this bad boy to life!”#vss365

Vessel and the Dying Light

Around the glades near the shire of Sruth Uaine not even the wind shifted the last leaf clinging to the ironwood branch. In the dwindling light I sat atop the ode-stone watching the perked ears of my fellow Slan as they wound silently through the deer paths. Every moment the sun journeyed closer to the horizon. Every moment hope died a little more.

I longed for that sensation beneath my paw pressed against the stone. Please, let some other Traveler sing to the stones. Let some Slan succeed, somewhere.

I spread out the toes of each footpaw. I was fleet. Perhaps if I joined in the pursuit? But no. Today, the shortest day of the year, did not belong to me nor any other of the bardic order. This day we were but witness to a ritual that belonged to the uninitiated youth. Who was I, a Traveler beyond her first life-span, to steal the honor from the fleet-pawed who had spent their seasons in practice sprints over hill and dale. My fingers caressed the stubborn stone. The magic thrummed against my pads, willing me to evoke the images of the past rituals. I nearly did before letting my ears fall. No, for I might miss the subtle song from another shire.

“Traveler?” A whisper stole my attention.

I leaned forward and stared down into the eyes of an adolescent stoat clutching a pouch on her belt. Stretched to her full height, she turned her gaze out to the filtering trees. I recalled her name from back in the shire, Dochas was a daughter of one of the druids not yet initiated into the order. She was not known for her grace. In fact her footpaws seemed to have minds of their own.

Her tail bristled and twitched as she went on. “Traveler, how … how do you know for sure today is the Solstice? I mean, could we … could we be wrong?”

“The sun speaks its truth. The path has stalled as only the eyes of those who measure know.” I smiled. “You fear that the search is for nothing.”

A tremble swept through her. “What if it was yesterday? What if we missed the opportunity? What if it is today and no one succeeds? Has that happened before?”

“Indeed, it has.” It took all my will-power not to summon the images of those pawful of harsh times. She already shook, no need to mire her fears. “Not in any age that I have born witness to, but in the distant past there have been winters where no beast of any shire has managed to locate the mighty Soitheach. And in some cases they found her in the dusk and failed to catch the wily beast.”

WinterSolsticeBoar

Her eyes searched with greater urgency.

“Without the touch of a paw and the connection to the legendary mother-boar, the harvest that followed was indeed meager. The forest ungenerous. Every shire in the land shed weight in the turn of the seasons. But don’t fret. Look to the sky. The sun’s rays still blush the horizon. So long as light remains, so too does hope.”

“Then … no one has found Soitheach?” She nearly climbed the stone pillar.

Silence reached out of the surface. No new song broke forth. I shook my head.

Dochas heaved a sigh. “How can no one find a boar that large?”

“The whole of our island is immense.” I shrugged. After all, ancient dragons filled the mountain caverns without a trace. Soitheach was indeed more massive than a normal boar, but she was no mountain.

Dochas’s ears drooped. A moment later they crept back up. A paw to rose to her lips.

I held my breath. Silence, for by now all of the young Slan had pressed away from us toward the distant stream.

Crack.

We both turned and gazed into the fiery rays piercing the wood from the distant hill. A mound moved through the bracken. A snorting shuffle carried through the forest. Dochas clung to the shadow of the stone, crouching low she slunk under a fallen truck of a tree and braced herself.

I narrowed my eyes against the blaze of the setting sun. The final fingers stretched into the sky. I sniffed, but no wind carried the scent. The stagnant air denied any hint as to the creature that came our way. Was it Soitheach’s hooves breaking a trail? Or some other immense beast?

Hold still, young one. Let this be your year. Soitheach, give this one the honor.

Yes, I am too old to believe in such a notion as to her hearing me. Or even my will calling forth a creature of legend. I know better than to assume they gave a damn about the lure of my insubstantial voice. A Traveler holds powerful magic, but the elements of nature hold to their own whims.

From the pouch on her belt, Dochas snatched out a mushroom the size of her splayed paw. Gently she blew on the cap toward the creature. Branches snapped and cracked. The ragged outline of the lumbering mound of flesh grew out of the forest. Tusks longer than a Slan’s arm arched toward the sky. Two beady eyes the color of a rippling stream glimmered beneath shaggy brows. A ridge of coarse frost-gray hair stretched along her back. In her wake the forest shivered, frost cracked the ground in her hoof prints.

Soitheach’s breath curled out of her mouth and rose into an icy fog. She turned her focus toward the tree. Dochas’s paw held the offering out like the wooden limb.

I cocked my head. What a clever little mite.

Step by frostbitten step, Soitheach wandered toward her with nostrils wide sucking in the scent. I clung to my perch. A faint finger of light speared the sky. If Dochas moved, the fleet hooves of the beast would carry her well out of range. All it would take was a flinch and the year would be of fallow fields.

Hold! Chasing now would be folly. Patience, young one!

A paw-width away. Every breath of the mighty boar stirred the fur on Dochas’s paw. Still as the steadfast oak she remained, not even blinking as Soitheach’s flanks twitched. Saliva dripped from her open mouth leaving behind a killing frost.

Soitheach lifted her head and engulfed the mushroom. A string of fluid connected paw and beast.

My heart thrummed. It wasn’t enough. Reach, slow… but reach!

Soitheach ground the fungus between her teeth, grunting with obvious pleasure. Her eyes hooded over.

Swift as lightning Dochas’s paw caressed down the muzzle.

Louder than thunder Soitheach squealed her displeasure. She reared her bulk up onto her hunches and nearly tumbled onto her bristly backside. That fate Dochas did not escape. She toppled tail over muzzle behind the tree. She narrowly missed being crushed by the hooves of the bucking boar.

The forest shattered as Soitheach plowed up the hillside leaving a breathless young stoat in her wake bathed in the final blush of the evening sun. Alarmed voices called from all around, ears bobbed in the distance. Dochas lay there gasping for breath, rooted to the spot as she stared where the legend has once stood in four frosted hoof prints.

My heart raced, the song this year … was mine to sing! I bore witness. From my neck I grasped my kenaz and willed the pendant into a fiddle. Already the prose formed in my mind.

Dochas of the shire of Sruth Uaine, you shall be ever-remembered. You, and you alone by your cleverness, have blessed the new year. Tomorrow, when the day grows longer, we may rejoice and sing your name.


A blessed holidays to you and yours, with a happy new year!

Halloween Reprise: Once Beatin’, Twice Die

Once Beatin’, Twice Die

Reposted twisted humor story in the spirit of the season of tricks and treats. This tale was inspired by a prompt with a 36 hour writing frame: Pooky and the Pumpkin Parlor. My story triggered a need for the creation of second place, previously only the top running story was to be awarded but they liked my tale so much and wanted to publish it online. Enjoy this delicious devilry …

quantumkitty

I clutched my pumpkin to my chest. Every jostle of the cardboard box I rode in threatened to dislodge my precious prize.

My pumpkin. No one could take it from me. I flexed my claws into the fleshy rind. The juice wicked into my fur. I purred.

The floor of my box dropped. I landed hard and rolled to the side with a hiss. A moment later her face appeared over the edge of the box. A face that looked like a frog had mated with a gourd. Madame Euphrasia.

I spat at her and flexed my claws into the pumpkin.

“Pooky, are you sure you want to go through with this?” She offered me a tight-lipped smile. “Come on now, it was a terribly long walk down here, to the Pumpkin Parlor. But I promise to forgive you.”

“Rowwwrrr!”

“Sweetie.”

I hugged my pumpkin tighter.

Madame Euphrasia reached up and adjusted her pointy hat. “Have it your way you little—”

My hackles rose. I fixed her with a glare.

“—darling.” She softened her expression.

My pumpkin. So soft and squelchy in my claws. Mmm.

The box rocked to the side and I tumbled onto the rust-tinted counter of the Pumpkin Parlor. Jack’o’lanterns hung from the ceiling and cast a warm glow over the spirits floating to the tables delivering alcohol. The entire room glowed in shades of unbroken orange. Well, all save the patrons. The collective monstrosities seated all around were exempt from the color code. A pack of werewolves dressed in black leather perched on stools further down the counter devouring a rack of lamb. In the corner booth a stitched man resembling a burly rag doll slouched with a daisy in his hand. A cappuccino steamed before him.

Even though I had not been here long, I remembered this place. I craned my head to see if I could find that nice wooden box I had once slept in.

A hand slammed the counter. Madame Euphrasia leaned over and glared at the swinging door. “Momordica! Momordica, you mountebank. This is your damn place. I know you are back there. Get your wiley ass out here right now!”

I scaled my pumpkin and curled around the coiled stem. The little curly twigs sproing when I bat them with a paw. I liked that.

“Momordica. Come out before I go back there and drag you out. We need to talk about that sh—“

I hissed and skewered the pumpkin with all ten claws.

She gulped. “—sweet transaction we had the other day.”

Why did that crazy old coot have to raise her voice so much? Never, in all my nine-lives had I known such an unappreciative human.

The door squealed open and Momordica sauntered in, bedecked in shades of ochre. Even his top hat was a rich shade as he flicked it off his head with a bow. “Madame Euphrasia. Pleasant to see you this eve. How may I assist one of my finest patrons?”

Several of the customers narrowed their eyes before returning to their meals.

I resumed playing with the curlicues. Twang. Twang. The hollow gourd responded with a thump. Thump. Thump.

“There is a problem with Pooky. It must be remedied immediately and with great care.”

Momordica glanced down at me and widened his golden eyes. “The darling kitten I sold you just a fortnight ago? He looks perfectly healthy. And I assure you that black cats are all the rage as witch’s familiars. Give him a bit more time. He’ll grow on you.”

She balled her fists and gave me a sideways glance. A bead of sweat rolled down her knobby brow. “I am running out of time. The little bea—creature won’t obey. This is serious, Momordica.”

Obey, schmobey. It’s not like she asked nicely. I rubbed my cheek against the stem of the pumpkin and purred. The hollow reverberated, thump, thump, thump. I wanted to open it. But it was too soon. Too soon to look see.

“Madame Euphrasia, Pooky is just a sweet little kitten. What harm could he manage aside from stealing a ball of yarn?”

“You see that pumpkin?” She smiled like someone pulled her lips apart with fish hooks. “He won’t give it back.”

“A pumpkin?” He burst into laughter. “A pumpkin? I have a whole field of pumpkins. What kind do you wish? Let Pooky keep that one.”

“You don’t understand.”

Light flickered through a glass of whiskey on the counter. Pretty. Must become mine. I slid down the side of the pumpkin and kept my tail brushing against it. With a paw I ticked the side of the glass.

It vanished. But the liquid remained. An amber puddle spread over the wood and dampened Momordica’s gloved fingers.

Where the glass was now was it half empty? Was it half full? Was there even a glass in the first place? If I looked I would know and that would spoil everything. Ohh, my tail is moving. Must get the tail.

He leaned back. “Remarkable!”

“You see? This is no normal cat.”

“Well, of course he isn’t. He’s a witch’s familiar now.”

“But I didn’t teach him that damn trick. You need to understand what he’s stolen.”

I leapt back onto the pumpkin and licked my paws taking care to get between each claw. She flinched as I eyed her.

Momordica leaned forward.

“He’s stolen my heart.”

He laughed so hard he ceased to breath for a moment. “Aww, now that’s so sweet. He’s not a bad kitty. He’s a miracle worker. Who would’ve known you even had a heart?”

“It’s not funny!” She tore open the first few buttons on her dress collar to reveal my claw marks on her flesh. “I mean he literally stole the damn organ!”

I arched my back and growled deep in my throat.

“The sweet, darling animal! I mean, he cares so much … but … but … I need it back. Momordica, I think he has it in the pumpkin. I have no idea how he did it. Where did you find him?” Her face grew pale as a saucer of milk.

Mmm, milk.

He took a few steps back eyeing me. I sunk my claws into the flesh of the pumpkin. My pumpkin. Thump thump, thump thump.

“I found him in a box in the graveyard. Poor thing was half alive, half dead. I carried him here not having any idea if when I opened the box he’d still be here.”

Thump thump. The beat in the pumpkin stuttered. Oh dear. Thump thump … thump … THUD.

She dropped to the floor.

I sighed and abandoned the pumpkin on the counter. No point in looking now. I already knew the answer.

Momordica grabbed it and smashed it open with his fist. Crimson mingled with orange pulp, the witch’s heart cradled in the core. Apparently my touch can only sustain an organ for so long. Who knew.

He looked at me. I glared back before raising a paw to groom off the pumpkin pulp.

“Who would’ve known! Tell me, Pooky, why did you do that?”

Curiosity. I leapt back into the box and pulled the flaps closed. Memories of a past half-life tumbled back to me. The inside of a box, and the musings of a human named Schrodinger.


Happy Halloween! Mwahahaha!

Shadow of Doubt

Shadow of Doubt

samhainsidhewyvern

I reached out and caught the leaf drifting down from the branches. A true masterpiece on a once living canvas. Red tips blazed at the end of the brilliant yellow center. The shrill cry of a sidh-wyvern caught my ear. I glanced up into the shivering autumn leaves and spied her unusual markings.

“What are you looking at, Ealaidh?” Seirm, my bard-in-training charge, flicked his stoat ears in the direction I was gazing.

I ruffled his headfur. “Tis the turning of summer to autumn. Surely you know about the lords of the seasons.”

He chuckled and flared out his short tail. “Of course I know the myth.”

“Myth?” Raising an eyebrow I cocked my head. “Surely you mean myths?”

He stared at me blankly.

“By the multitude of gods, what lazy tailed bard taught you? Oh never mind, it doesn’t matter. Sit. Learn as you should have been taught.” We settled on a fallen log dappled with lichen. The earthy scent filled my nostrils, that damp odor of deceased plants returning to the dirt that gave rise to it. Cycles.

“Seirm, my young bard—”

“I’m seventy-three.”

“My young bard.” I eyed him back into silence. “The seasons did not always turn. Ages ago, not long after the first tribes began the tell of time through Taliesin’s gift of music, Cernunnos turned to Io’s children. The earth had grown weary of supporting constant abundance. So in his great wisdom Cernunnos selected four special sidh-wyverns and gifted them with the power over the weather.”

“Yes. Everyone has heard the legends. But how can something so tiny effect the whole climate? They’re the size of hawks, that’s ridiculous.”

“You are not alone in thinking so. When first they were gifted, one of them suffered greatly under the burden of her task, even into the second year.”

The summer sun cast Muthadh’s shadow long as she stretched her scalloped wings over the hillside amongst the ghosts of shivering leaves. The hawk-sized sidh-wyvern let her translucent back frill tuck in tight as she wrapped her tail around her. Purple and orange scales hardly hid her among the ash tree’s bright green. She closed her eyes and shuddered.

“We are dragon-kin.” She swallowed, hugging the swaying branch with her clawed wings. “What a shameful jest. What am I compared to my larger cousins? A wisp to be blown on the wind?”

A distant cry shattered the air, Muthadh held her breath and spread out her wings prepared to bolt. But for what? She knew that boastful shriek, as did any who roamed the wood in the grip of summer. Luisreadh, the sidh-wyvern whose magic reigned over the season of prosperity. It was his breath that opened the flowers faces to the sun. The current of his wings that spread their pollen through the glades. His cry that summoned the heat of the blazing sun down on the earth.

Muthadh had woken. Luisreadh’s season … was supposed to be ending. Her claws gripped the branch as her eyes locked on her silhouette spilling on the ground. Thin, wiry, substanceless. She whimpered at her shadow of doubt. Green leaves buffeted her. Leaves that were her task to paint as vibrantly as Luisreadh painted the flowers. A warm breeze blew through the wood. Winds that were her task to whip into gales and strip the growth away. The sun winked through the canopy. The same sun it was her task to pull lower into the sky to let land to rest, if she could but summon the courage.

Memories of last year’s attempt paralyzed her. Last year … in what was to be the first turn of the seasons. She bowed her head and whimpered at her failure.

Autumn’s first day was today … and its bringer clung to the branch like a stubborn leaf. When she had opened her eyes on this day and seen the beauty Luisreadh had spread throughout the land, a lump grew in her throat. How could she wilt his beloved blooms? How could she rot this vibrant land? How could she possibly outshine the splendor of the sidh-wyvern of summer?

She spied him winging into the trees, Luisreadh swept through the branches screeching out his pride at his own work. His bright green scales splotched with all the colors of the blooms. Bright rows of spikes lined his back as he undulated through his domain. The spark in his eye lanced Muthadh’s heart. He wasn’t ready to relinquish. For the second time, autumn could not possibly come.

Her shadow shivered up from below, cast over Luisreadh’s masterworks. The shadow mocked her, she swore she saw it narrowing its eyes and laughing up at her. Coward! It whispered. Uninspired fool. Yours is the season of death. Who would ever embrace you? It’s no wonder that no one even missed your failed contribution last year. Crawl into a tree hollow and cry like again! It’s all that is left to you.

She tucked her head beneath a wing and stifled a sob. The gleam of bright blue sparked before her. She opened her eyes to gaze upon on will-o-wisp floating in the folds of her wing. The morpheous sprite floated down to the tree limb, brushing against the bark. “Listen …”

Muthadh bent down and pressed her ear close to the limb.

“Listen …” The wisp evaporated.

weary … rest … The limbs spoke to her in creaks and groans.

She snapped up her head. “You … you would suffer if I did not take over for Luisreadh?”

weary …

“But, you don’t understand. I would be killing you.”

sleep, not death … through winter … spring reawakens … without rest—as if to show her a leaf crisped on the twig and fell to the ground.

“Have you told Luisreadh?”

yes … he bids us to sprout eternal … we are not the evergreen …

Her frill crept up to full, flowing in the breeze between her spines. She watched the reigner of summer soaring on his breeze, oblivious to the cries echoing in the wood. He remained ignorant to the needs of the land. A snarl parted her scaly muzzle. Turning to the shadow of her doubt on the ground she glared hard at it. “Your pointless weight will not ground me. I am the reigner of autumn! This season does not come without my bidding. It is time.” She stroked the tree limb with her wing. “The land needs sleep.”

Throwing her head back, Muthadh released her harsh rasp. Her wings spread and slammed down against the warm current. A cold, crisp bite followed and enveloped her in a spinning frenzy. The skies overhead darkened, leaden with heavy rain clouds as a thunderclap echoed through the valley.

“Luisreadh! Summer has come to a close, the harbinger of autumn has awakened. Bow down and surrender.” She hovered above the tree grove, rain pelting her scales.

A brightly mottled arrow of sidh-wyvern flesh shot up from the canopy. Luisreadh led with his talons and a piercing scream. “I am not finished! I will never fall to you!”

“Spirited words.” She snapped her wing and rose out of his way. Enthusiastic as always, Luisreadh overshot and struggled to pull around and face her. “You know this is how it must be. The land calls to you, but you ignore it. Heed its cries, let it rest.”

Hotheaded Luisreadh bared his fangs. “You challenge me for the mantle? I would have thought last year when I beat you into submission you would have learned. You are not worthy!”

She cringed, the scar on her wing still tugged. But the pain had another effect. She wouldn’t let him win again. Autumn must come, even if he refused to heed the cry of the land. Rising toward him in the growing gale littered with shredding leaves she beat her wings, arching her talons. The chill in the air faded his colors. Each beat of his wings lost power as she stole the mantle from him.

His face lined with shock a moment before she collided with him, entangling him with her talons. He struggled, only to blink up at her. Muthadh carried him lower into the canopy, heading toward his favorite oak tree. “What … what are you doing?” His voice was barely a whisper in her gale.

“Laying you to rest for the turn of the seasons.” She gently nestled him into the crook of the tree, nudging his tail in.

The defeated summer sidh-wyvern’s eyes already were closing where he would sleep three seasons through. “But … why … I beat you into the hillside last year … left you broken.”

She breathed onto the oak leaves and they turned a brilliant array of reds and golds. “I already beat one opponent today. What need have I to prove to another?” A ray of sunlight broke through the clouds casting Muthadh’s shadow against the oak tree. Luisreadh’s eyes blinked back open as the shadow cringed.

Muthadh spread her wings and shot into the heavens, riding the rising gale with each pulse. Beneath her the world turned from one brilliant palette of colors to another of true beauty. The beautiful palette of change as autumn fell upon the land for the first time.

Out of the canopy Muthadh soared, wreathed in will-o-wisps.

Seirm jolted as the sidh-wyvern shot in a tight spiral over our heads and up into the leaden skies.

Placing a paw on his shoulder, I chuckled. “First time you’ve seen a myth, lad? Been around the bard camp too long. Welcome to the real world where there are creatures who truly command their surroundings. Take care to mind them. Especially the harbinger that prepares the earth for the winter sleep … she bares death on her wings.”

The Final Candlemark

journeysthrougha-brass-quill

The Final Candlemark

Contrast. It is critical to everything around us, and yet we acknowledge it so fleetingly. It is only by the light that we can see shadows, it is because these two states mix that we see the depth of details. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but often we are drawn closer to beauty when something we detest is brought forth. Never do we bask so much in the comfort of a state of ease than when it is following a trial of pain … never do we desire so much for ease than when facing utter despair. Yet in every loss there is some gain, it just may take the heart time to grasp its meaning.

Hardly a breath stirred in the room. Heads downcast and paws folded, like statues carved in stone they sat pensively in the oppressive silence. They remained as though surrounding an altar in the midst of some solemn ritual, an unbroken circle with their focal point at the center. From my place where I perched on the shuttered window ledge I observed their devotion, removed from the immediate and yet a part of the whole. I had stumbled upon them quite by accident days ago, and as the candlemarks burned become acquainted with the imminent loss. It mattered not what brought me to the doorstep, what sort of bard would I be if I abandoned them now?

IllustrationFinalCandlemark

Upon his muzzle thick whiskers grown brittle by age covered his once strong features. He had a broad face where time had chiseled the lines of a smile for how often he wore it. Being an otter of the brucach helped there, for they were known to be a jovial lot. No stranger to hardship, his calloused paws bore the evidence of one who had worked with the water all the days of his life, the lines of the nets and ship’s ropes woven patterns into his furry hide. Scars of many a battle with a toothy beast from the deep left bald patches. Fisherbeast, leader, father, friend, protector. All these things he said without words for he could no longer speak for himself … days ago the disease had stolen his speech locking him within his own body. And now all we could do was wait, five souls whose altar was the otter who lay in his deathbed. Four his kin, and one the bard who would sing Denaidh to his final home.

Pulling my knees up to my chin, I rested my head there trying not to disrupt the family’s vigil. There had been silence for many candlemarks now, there seemed nothing left to be said. In the flicker of the candle on the nightstand I observed the four otters that formed the tight knit family. Nansaidh, his wife hovered just beside the head of the bed. Her half lidded eyes red with the tears of grief already shed. How I wished I could coax her into telling me once more about Denaidh’s first fishing trip, have her recall their wedding, the birth of one of the whelps. But I knew by one glance that her heart would break at such a request. The time for that had already come and gone. On the opposite side of the bed Bricius, their oldest son, sat taciturn and staring at his tightly clasped paws as though they could hold his father on this earth longer by will alone. Beside him the middle whelp had also been a son, Seoras glanced up at every change of breath that came from the bed. A mixture of dread and weariness lined his eyes each time. It was inevitable, but even still, the anticipation is often the worst. Beside her mother sat the youngest of the three whelps, Ganeida reached out a paw and placed it upon her mother’s shoulder. No words, just a simple comforting gesture. Though all three children were fully grown, they had returned to the home of their birth at the news that Denaidh had taken a turn for the worse. The signs were beyond denial that his wick was burning thin.

Though locked in solemn silence now, when I had first come upon the earthen cottage days before the stories they told of their father could fill a bard’s repertoire for a year. Staring idly at the flicker of the candle I let my mind wander over the amazing life of one otter named Denaidh that I might do his life song justice.

Lives rarely begin amazing, it is rather the experiences that surround one that makes it remarkable. Denaidh was born on the banks of the lake, son to a woodworker the young otter found himself more often in the water than out of it! Applying the skills to shape wood that his father had bestowed upon him it wasn’t long before Denaidh sailed his own homemade boats out onto the waters and experimented in catching fish by speed diving over the side. Living fast and free, Denaidh soon cast his home anchor aside and sailed a well made ship down the river to the pulling waves of the ocean beyond. Always a smile on his face, he acquired a strong loyal crew along the way that gravitated toward his fair nature. Skipper of the ship entailed great responsibility, but the otter had a knack for inspiring his crew to work together.

At a market just upriver Denaidh was selling some of his latest catch when his eyes fell upon Nansaidh. She had recalled with a found laugh how the sailor’s paws awkwardly caressed the fish he held as he had murmured, “Your eyes sparkle like the shimmer of the sea on a fish scale.” The rest of the day they spent paw in paw strolling along the banks of the river all the way to the sea. It was a night of pure magic as he told her of his travels out into the blue waves; to islands of wonder, foreign lands filled with strange beasts, battles on the waters with creatures of the deep. To an ottermaid land locked in one shire the whole of her life, his tales sparked a fire in her heart. She knew, before the sun kissed the horizon that she had stumbled upon the other half of her soul.

They were married in the high summer to with a merry feast. Within a year Bricius was born. And though Denaidh’s sailing kept him from home for long stretches of time, when he sailed back into port and returned to the lake shire home he was always there for them. With a smile broader than the ocean, he would sit before the hearth and relate his latest adventures … and often other stories of the past he retold time and again. And yet, even though the shire had heard them a hundred times a hundred they listened and laughed as though it were the first.

Seoras had already seen a seasons turning when the Age of the Keel Race began. Somehow, despite how peaceful Denaidh’s spirit was and that he was but a humble a fisherbeast, his ship became entangled with the great shore battles of those years. The bards called to the shores in those bitter times told of a terrible competition between the those of the old ways and city folk to design the best ships for fishing the generous waters. What began as a simple advancement became a dire and bloody race where entire ships were destroyed and crews slain in acts of pure greed. Denaidh’s ship worked to supply food to the shires cut off by blockades. If the sly otter skipper had been caught, it would have been certain death. His whole crew knew it, and risked it just the same. Each and every beast contemplated their own family receiving the supplies they ran past the blockades. Hundreds of mouths were fed thanks to the humble bravery of Denaidh’s ship alone. At the tail end of this bitter war Ganeida was born.

With three whelps now thriving under his roof, Denaidh cherished every moment he could spare to remain at him. On the shores of the lake they would cast lines from fishing poles spending the afternoon trying to catch the biggest fish, Denaidh would spin great yarns telling the biggest whooper of a tale. Wide-eyed with wonder his children believed his every word. Out in the woods, strolling paw in paw with Nansaidh they would tell their whelps of the trees and creatures that surrounded them, bestowing skills and knowledge. Ganeida had closed her eyes and smiled as she remembered when a doe and her fawn stepped cautiously across the forest path, just paws lengths from them as she rode upon her father’s shoulders, her favorite view of the world.

When they were older Bricius and Seoras came aboard the ship for a day, setting sail with the crew long enough to get a feel for the ocean beneath their paws. Though neither one chased that dream any further, the day spent out on the waters seeing what their father did remained forever in their memories. When the sailor festival came that year the fun and games seemed to never end as the families of the ships gathered to share their common thread. Strong families, bound together by love. Wives who knew their husbands would be gone for long stretches of time. Wives who knew that at any time this departure might be his last. Somehow, they kept this sad possibility from their whelps.

But fate did not have that in store for Denaidh. Each time he sailed from port he returned home again with arms flung wide to embrace his beloved family. The years turned on and with it the growth of his family as one by one they matured, stumbling across loves of their own and beginning families. Now Denaidh and Nansaidh were not just parents but grandparents gazing with pride in their eyes at the love they had created. Now grandpa had grandwhelps to tell of his favorite big fish and shipwreck stories.

The salt had become part of his coat showing in its white tips, the twinkle of starlight embedded in his eyes, the water of the sea flowed in his veins. Though the years were turning to the point when most beasts sought a less active role, Deniadh’s paws did not wish to release the tiller. Bones ached and muscles complained, but only those who saw past his masking smile knew the truth. He buried deep the burden of his strenuous years. Even when the knell rang out, the smile remained. Out of respect, the crew continued to serve him unquestionably, this wise and generous soul.

It began as a cold. Something simple, nagging, common. But it never went away. The seasons turned and the cough continued. The druid healers listened when Denaidh was pushed into their hall by a concerned Nansaidh. They knew something was wrong, but the usual remedies Nansaidh had given him had not done the trick. So they tried their methods. Scant moments of time were stolen, but the progression just continued even when the deep healing was applied. Finally the head druid embraced Nansaidh and tearfully told her to let him live as he desired … for the time upon this plain is limited.

They all knew, whelp and wife alike that Denaidh was defined by his love of his work. When his ever-failing health would force him to lay down his line that would be the end of who he was. Despite their fears for his safety, they let him sail on. Each time he returned they listened to his stories, asked his for advice even if they had knowledge of the answer, craving a chance to build just one more memory—for they never knew when the last one was coming. Every beast saw the signs as his breath came harder and harder, the constant struggle for air began to deplete his once inexhaustible strength. Were that not bad enough, during the winter fishing lull Nansaidh saw his access to memories being stripped away. Moment by moment times of the past were fading from her beloved like the ocean’s tides pulling the sand from the shore. At least his smile remained. That same sweet smile that brought strength and inspired such joy. And so she clung to his hands even as the strength and coordination began to fade.

Denaidh’s paws struggled to obey him and repair the nets, his memory fought to recall the order of the rope bindings. The work was getting harder for him, and his crew quietly stepped up to help him as much as he would allow. The ailing otter refused to admit that the tasks were getting out of paw. Navigation was becoming a greater issue as Denaidh lost access to part of the map of his world in his head. He knew things were missing and simply could not get access to them.

The struggle grew more desperate when his paws lost dexterity enough that even holding a low tension rope was beyond him. Nansaidh found her home-bound Denaidh sullen, feeling out of place the otter simply stared off at the hills that blocked his beloved ocean. The closest he could come was a staggered gate down to the lake front that left him gasping for air. Nothing she could do would lift his spirits, the sparkle in his eyes was relentlessly stricken by the disease. Piece by piece, muscle by muscle, memory by memory he was locked inside himself. The lively Denaidh full of spirit and life had gradually been stripped away. Until at last so vanished the smile.

I imagined him as they had described his vibrant spirit. Sleek and lean, he had moved about the world with a merry gate. Bright eyes sparkled back as he worked with a song on his lips. Although they say he was no singer, apparently quite tone deaf, it never stopped him from lustily belting out an old tune. With paws that could haul a line in any weather his footpaws were equally sure on both land and sea. There was always a warmth about him, even when he was disciplining crew he had an understanding air about him.

When I opened my eyes there he lay upon the bed. The muscles had deflated leaving behind the contours of a face much older than his true age. Yesterday had been his birthday, his sixty-second. The once bristling whiskered maw of a strong otter drooped where the muscles failed to hold up cheeks. His eyes had closed days ago in a sleep deep and unyielding. Thin arms and paws laid stretched out upon the woolen blanket, the skin hanging off the wasting frame. Beneath the blanket his chest rose and fell slowly, too slowly with the rasp effected by his blocked lungs. Even with his slackened face the evidence of his smile remained in the lines found there. Bittersweet to know how he must have looked to others grinning as wide as the day is long … and here he lay now devoid of all expression. Through the stories they had shared with me I felt I had come to know this slan as though I had spent years working the rigging under his gentle guidance.

The candle guttered on the nightstand, every eye in the room shifted to the flame, the first motion for ages. From the bed nothing had altered, just the unnaturally slow rasp of breath in and out. My eyes could not help but gaze back to the flicker of the candle’s flame, there are ways in this world that even a bard cannot explain. Like how a candle’s flame can predict the future. Unfolding from my perch on the window ledge I quietly walked up to the foot of the bed. Physically nothing seemed to have changed, the breaths still came as sluggishly as they had for a day now.

But the flame knew.

Nansaidh reached forward to pull up the blanket a little tighter to his chin. “He . . . he looks so cold.”

Shall I get another blanket?” Almost standing, Ganeida was stopped when her father failed to inhale at the time he should have.

Once more all eyes were drawn to a focal point, this time it was Denaidh. Impossibly long we waited. One shoulder after another fell in sorrow. Then he gasped, drawing in a slow shallow rasp. Their eyes closed in the anguish of all those days, dreading the inevitable pain of loss. This was too much, too long sitting vigil. I came to wonder what kept him from his final release.

Tentatively, Nansaidh reached out and embraced his paw. Touching his forehead with hers she whispered just above a breath, “My heart is always yours, now and forever.”

There was no breeze in the tightly shuttered room, but with a hiss and a wisp of smoke the candlestick went out.

That was what he had waited for, one last declaration of love. The beauty of those words carried his spirit on its final journey. As she pulled back from embracing him, Nansaidh’s weary gaze studied his still features. Only the hearth fire lit the room now, but even in its distant relief the motionless whiskers were testament.

No words could be found. Only silence as a mother, her sons, and her daughter watched for the breath that would never come. Out of respect I bowed my head, waiting patiently as the silent tears fell like a cleansing rain. All this time they had held the sorrow in, now it was at last free to flow.

020.JPG

* * * * *

It was a dusk to remember. The setting sun set the lake ablaze with those gathered on the shore who had come to see off Denaidh for his final sailing. Atop the planks of his favorite vessel he lay on a bed of kindling, dressed in his finest tunic. At the end of the dock stood his family, paws locked in an unbroken circle, at the center was a fire urn crackling away. With the wake completed, and the last preparations made, there was but one task to be done before the otter could return to the ash from whence he came.

Standing atop a knoll I reached up my paw and enclosed the small kenaz that hung from my neck. Willing the magic to lend me a set of uilleann pipes, as the family had told me the old fisherbeast would have asked for them. Working the bellow with my elbow I let the first mellow tones carry into the air, the soft mournful wail of the lament I had intended. My fingers stirred over the holes in the pipe, as I let my heart remember this beast through the eyes of the others I realized a lament was not what he would would have desired. Gradually, the mood of the piece shifted. Denaidh’s spirit guided my paws lending a lighter air to my original melody. Yes, we would remember. Gazing into the first star winking in the darkening sky I altered the words of his life song.

“The sun can still be found shining

Beyond the leaden clouds of rain

The heart is still believing

Amidst the shadow of pain

Time has ceased your wandering

Beloved watch o’er your bed

As the candle marked each hour

Remembering the life you led

Do not grieve for the steps not taken

Mourn thee not for the hours not lived

Only dwell on the joy and the laughter

The ripples cast out is what the soul can give

Through your eyes the world was golden

Silver waters brought wealth in fin

Selfless journeys carried hardships

When wizened hearts beat not to sin

Joyful arms were there embracing

When the time came to call home

Stories are gems worth the taking

As your heart had always known

Joyful arms were there embracing

When the time came to call home

Stories are gems worth the taking

As your heart had always known

Journey on to heaven’s keeping

Beyond the pain and sorrow

Watching o’er your blessed loved ones

With every sunrise of the morrow

For the candle called you on

To the final great beyond

Where you smile to greet the dawn

We shall forever sing your song

Wisp away the smoke of forever

Burned away the wax of time

Ripple on the waves of gestures

The spiral carries ever on.”

The pipes continued as I watched Nansaidh’s paw unclasp from Bricius’s to claim a long torch from the urn. With as much dignity as she could muster, the ottermatron approached the rail of the ship. Blowing a kiss to the wind she hefted the burning torch onto the ship where the flames licked and caught the kindling ablaze. Once they were certain it had caught well enough, a couple of his sailors cut the ship loose and pushed her away out into the lake.

Fire and water, the dance of the flames on the mirror of the lake made endless by the starlit sky above. He rose with the smoke, his spirit ascended in the flames. Whether his family sensed it or not, I never knew. But on the knoll where I stood playing a sea shanty whose words many had long forgotten I felt him bid a joyous farewell.

The ship burned for hours with the shire’s eyes ever vigilant. Knowing he had truly departed, I slipped back into the humble dwelling drawn to the nightstand where the remainder of the candlestick had cooled. No one had touched it in the days that had passed. Studying this humble item I noted once more there was nothing unusual about this wax and wick. No spell had been placed upon it, no magic embedded in the wax. How curious that it should have known. The end of the wick had not yet been reached, and yet it went out … like so many lives half spent.

“Why did you come here?” Barely turning I discovered the source of the drained voice was Ganeida, the stains of recent tears lined her face.

My paw released the candlestick, leaving it once more on the nightstand. “Sometimes a bard is simply drawn to where they should be. Drifting, like a seed on the wind. I was meant to be here for his passing, you were a very lucky family.”

She closed her eyes, fighting back tears. “But he’s gone.”

“Gone?” I let a smile cross my face, “Never gone because he is here.” I pointed to her heart. “For all of you have shared his life with me, the stories and the lessons he taught you. He will never truly be gone as long as you share what he has gifted you with.”

Her eyes were puzzled, too near the pain to truly hear the meaning behind my words.

Gesturing with my paw I pulled her closer to me, covering her heart I explained. “Our lives are never isolated, they always touch others. Your father had a gift for inspiring others to seek out the best in themselves, to work hard and be happy for the ability to do so. All of you have been touched by his joyful diligence. He was strong, that is something he left as a legacy in all of you.”

Her eyes responded to the gravity of my words, falling to the floor. “But so much was taken … ”

My finger pressed against her chin, working against the gravity fighting to pull it back down. “One day you will find his strength to smile again. One day you will see beyond what has taken and grasp what was given. It will not be tomorrow, it may not even be in the turn of the seasons. But you will, because he wants you to. That is what he wishes.”

She heaved a heavy sigh, “How can I smile again when he is not here to make me laugh with one of his stories?”

My own heart skipped a beat as I was forced to close my eyes at a memory of my own. The utter despair as I stood at the memory stone where my parents passing was recorded. No imagination was required to know how she felt for I had been at that very precipice. How can a spirit ever soar again when the source of their inspiration has been ripped from them?

Wrapping my arms around her I whispered, “You will remember when you tell his stories in your own voice. Your heart will rejoice in his memory when share in his spirit. With the spark of his generosity you will find a way to honor him, and in doing so he will lift you to greater heights.” Releasing her, I drew back to look in her pained eyes, “You must heal first, but once the wound has mended you may find a greater gift in exchange than you can imagine.”

Sniffling she shook her head, “Nothing can replace him.”

“You are right.” I grasped her paw and gave it a firm squeeze, “Nothing will ever replace him, but as his memories inspire you changes will fill that space. When there is a loss of a loved one there are but two paths to chose from; we can let the loss consume our hearts and turn us bitter, or we can let their spirit lift us to higher heights in their name. In you I see his strength and his joy. From this you will be made stronger.”

“How can you know that for certain?”

With a smile I let go of her paw, pulling away as I drifted towards the door, “Some things bards just know.” … like the candlestick foretelling the final candlemark. Out in the night air the scent of burning wood drifted on the breeze that toyed with my cloak. To my back was the flicker of the pyre in the middle of the lake, by the time the sun rose it would be gone, vanished beneath the lake waters. Gone, but never forgotten.

That is why we exist. The connections forged by each and every life as it tangles with the next. We tell of the coming and the going. We tell of the ties that bind and the events that sever. We tell of slan existence … but our voices are never alone. Our tales come from others as mundane and extraordinary as can be. Spirits are inspired by every manner of beast, and the legacy often passed on—of act and word. Beat on gentle heart, remember the simple love and joy. Remember how to laugh and smile, and cherish the wonders of the world you live in. We all must lose some things in our lives, it is how the soul grasps it that makes the difference in who we are.


This story was written years ago in memory of my father, Denny. For those who know the truth, The Final Candlemark parallels the real vigil of witnessing a vibrant life stripped away too soon by a dreadful affliction. It has taken me time and distance to feel confident in sharing this … but I know my family is not alone in enduring loss. That this story may bring comfort to another and shed light in their moment of sorrow, I honor my father this Father’s Day. Somewhere, beyond the shadowing veil that parts the living from the departed–he listens to every story we tell in his spirit.

My father–sailor, hard worker, lover of a good joke, and most of all–the original yarn-spinner in my life. I miss you.