Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Countdown: 365 Days of Flash Fiction Releases this Week

Science fiction, fantasy, dark fantasy, speculative fiction and a touch of horror, this collection plays with just about every genre it can lay its hands on. C.M. Simpson explores new worlds, new settings and lets loose some ideas that just needed to be gotten out of her head.

If short stories are your thing—and the shorter the better—you can find tiny tales from a wide variety of genres in 365 Days of Flash Fiction.

Here’s a final taste of the kinds of tales you’ll find:

Troll-Gate Guardian

Written on December 15, 2013, for 365 Days of Flash Fiction, this piece once again explores the Worlds Collide universe, and the trouble with associating with they fey.

“They have a troll.” Llew’ sounded far from pleased.
I marvelled at the lengths the queen’s enemies would go to undermine her authority, but a troll? You would have to be pretty low to do that. Still, they do say that all’s fair in love and war, and the queen had just rejected the hand of a powerful fey lord. An earl or duke or somesuch. He was the fifth in the last month. At this rate, we’d be at war with every petty noble in the fey world. I dreaded to think of what would happen when she got started on the princelings and their fathers.
I drew the bow, eyeballing the troll then adjusting for distance and the light breeze blowing across the culvert. It’s hard to see if the beast is being driven or led, but in the end I don’t care. I’ve fitted the arrow with an explosive head —don’t ask, let’s just say the local constabulary wouldn’t be too happy. The elves have augmented it with magic, so this should be fun.
Aim, allow for lead, fire.
I’m not the only one who gasps as the rejected suitor rides up alongside the troll. If the wizard riding with us hadn’t been such a quick thinker, we’d have had a real war on our hands, instead of this power skirmish. He thrusts out a hand, screaming a one-word spell, and the arrow shatters without touching the intervening lordling.
It surprises the guy’s horse, who shies away from the sharding missile, snorting and jostling the troll alongside. Course, trolls being the bad-tempered critters they are, this one takes offence and knocks the earl from his saddle. The noble steed bolts, getting clear before the troll can strike out again.
I am swearing a blue streak as I nock another arrow and raise the bow. This time no one ruins the shot by getting in between, and the troll goes down—it also goes up like a roman candle and explodes into several steaming chunks. I see movement in the shadows of the bridge and run forward. No way am I going to lose the ex-suitor to a bunch of small-and-shaggies, when I’ve just saved his ass from one of their larger cousins.
He comes round a little later and rolls unsteadily to his knees before the queen, glaring at me all the while.
“My lady, your wizard saved my life,” he says.
I roll my eyes, but his next words are like a slap to the face.
“I demand vengeance.”
I wait, not sure which way this is going to swing; the fey are so unpredictable. The queen is implacable, and I breathe a sigh of relief.
“You owe me a debt.”
“I owe you my life,” he confirms, and I get the feeling some sort of ritual is being enacted before me.
“I cannot accept your suit.”
“I understand, my lady. Forgive me.”
“It was a mistake,” she continues, referring to the whole arrow-and-troll debacle. I notice she doesn’t point out it was his own damn fault.
“Payment is still due.”
“I agree.”
Uh oh. I wait. The elf noble, whatever, looks up at the queen, and I hold my breath.
“You will wed.”
He recoils. I gasp and take two steps back, bump into her head bodyguard and his 2IC. Their hands coil around my upper arms. I get the feeling they’re laughing like a pair of hyenas at my discomfort. Give the earl this, he doesn’t throw up, explode with rage, or argue. He just turns his head and looks at me. The bow slides from my fingers and I go weak at the knees.
He is beautiful, but he is also very, very angry.
“When?” he says, getting slowly to his feet, his voice cold.
“Twelve months courting,” she replies, with the slightest of smiles—damn her! She’s enjoying this far too much—“and then mid-summer. She is my strongest ally in these lands, the Sunlight-Against-the-Trolls. Midsummer is fitting for such a union.”
Midsummer is their most-celebrated day of the year. His expression changes, and he looks me over once again. Even so, his next words are carefully chosen.
“You honour me,” he says, and cannot keep the sneer from his voice, “but she is human.”
“She is a human who can wield elven magic, and who was the first to see the gates open,” the queen responds. I notice she doesn’t mention I have also wielded an elven blade, and drunk three drops of her blood.
“She is troll plagued.”
“As are all guardians against that particular form of the dark. It could be worse.”
“Not much,” he says, and sighs. “I obey, my lady.”
Then he places his fingers to his lips and whistles for his horse.
“Yeah, and I love you, too,” I mutter, as he mounts and rides away.
My two guardians start to chuckle. Soon they’re laughing too hard to hold me, and I shrug them off. I remember to make the smallest of obeisances to her trouble-making majesty and then stalk, over the iron drawbridge and back into the house.
I can shut the door against the coming dawn and the trolls fading back to their lairs. I can shut the door on the sight of my unwanted allies riding into the mist. But I cannot shut the door on the sound of the horn’s dancing silver notes as they bid me an all too temporary farewell.

365 Days of Flash Fiction is scheduled for release on October 4, 2014.

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