The Forest

Posted in Fiction on March 6th, 2013 by Annabelle – 16 Comments

She was waiting when he wandered in, stupidly lost.  The trees here all seemed taller than they should have been; he was hot, tired, and he couldn’t imagine how it could be taking him so long to find his way out.  And then, in the clearing, an incongruous sight: a dark-haired woman sitting on a great rock with her knees drawn up, the green light of the leaves on her face.  He drew up, startled.  It was his kingdom, it was all his, but she looked at him with a detached curiosity, like a piece of interesting mold on a rock she had just turned over.

“So you finally came.”  Her voice, light and clear, took him off guard after the hour of wandering and shouting for his men.  He opened his mouth, but then she gave a smile that struck him dumb.  “Do you know where you are?”  He scowled.  Lost.  He was idiotically lost on his own lands, a ridiculous indignity for a man like him.

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Trifecta: Skipping Lessons

Posted in Fiction, Tacar on March 4th, 2013 by Annabelle – 27 Comments

It was an understood fact that no matter how many lessons and social commitments Raicha had to juggle, she was mysteriously available for anything Camilia invited her to do.  They had no illusions; it had nothing to do with Raicha’s personal preferences and everything to do with encouraging the Emperor’s heir to remember that she was an Ameru on her mother’s side.

It worked for everyone, especially the girls, but they tried not to be too obvious about their exploitation of it.  There were only so many painful teas with Aunt Chenna that could be coincidentally preempted by shopping emergencies before Looks started being passed around and someone got sat down and stared at by Raicha’s grandfather or Lady Cahlila.  Nobody wanted that.

“What are you missing this time?”  Camilia was curled on a silk sofa with her feet under her.

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The Woods and the Wolf

Posted in Fairy Tales, Fiction on February 25th, 2013 by Annabelle – 13 Comments

Her feet carried her slowly, unwillingly, down the forest path.  A hush had fallen, and the gentle clatter of branches and the quiet squeak of the fresh snow under her boots were the only sounds she could hear.  The wolf was pacing her out at the edges of sight, no more than a grey whisper among the grey trees.  It wouldn’t come any closer, not yet, but she could feel it waiting.

She pulled the crimson cloak closer around her against a cold she barely felt.  It had been a gift from her grandmother, a token of an affection that now made her skin crawl.  Under the sun, the cloak flamed, impossible to miss.  Here, under the trees at the last tail of dusk, it faded to the color of old blood, melting into the dark as if it belonged there.  The obscurity was strangely comforting.

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The Twelve Dancers

Posted in Fairy Tales, Fiction on February 18th, 2013 by Annabelle – 35 Comments

Worn-out shoes.  That’s what it came down to.  He was risking his life for worn-out shoes.  He shifted back on his heels in the mud, and raised his fingers to the place where a thorn had torn a sticky gash in his neck.  He’d had far worse, but it was all of a piece with this whole night.

The thing had stank from the beginning.  Find the secret in three nights or be put to death?  What sort of offer was that?  But the king was a father and fathers got desperate.  He hadn’t been far from desperate himself — out of a job, out of money, about to exhaust his options.  No one seemed to want his nicked and battered sword or equally battered self.

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The Apple

Posted in Fairy Tales, Fiction on February 12th, 2013 by Annabelle – 11 Comments

The stillroom was a wreck.  Elanne pressed a frustrated hand to her face, and surveyed the damage from between her fingers.  The floor glittered with shards of glass, here the remains of a green bottle, there what was left of a clear one, and all of it glistening with the spirits she’d been storing here.  A sweet, herbal tang filled the air so thickly she could almost taste it.  She didn’t need to wonder what had happened.  Her stepdaughter.  Of course.

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Trifecta: Ascension

Posted in Fiction, Tacar on February 11th, 2013 by Annabelle – 23 Comments

Camilia stared out the window of her father’s sitting room.  Temash’s body, still bloody from the hunt, had been taken away to be prepared for burial.  Now all that was left was three of his wives, Tamedijl having been taken away in hysterics, and half a dozen of his children.

Dahla was crying.  Camilia’s own mother Cahlila, who had actually cared for him, was exerting an iron focus on a cup of tea in her hand.  Sala, sitting with her two oldest children, merely looked grim.

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Trifecta: Leave-Taking

Posted in Fiction on February 4th, 2013 by Annabelle – 29 Comments

“You’re sure this is the path you want to take.”

She surveyed the crumbling goat-track down to the harbor cheerfully.  “It looks solid enough.”  The crisp salt air ruffled her hair and made her want to twirl.

“That is not what I meant.”  She looked up.  The disapproval had flattened him out like a toad.  He was comically glum, as if he might melt into a puddle of sheer concentrated obloquy.  She resisted the urge to pat him affectionately on the head.

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The Tower

Posted in Fairy Tales, Fiction on January 30th, 2013 by Annabelle – 24 Comments

This, she thought with a wince, might really be the worst of the things she had to hold against her parents about this whole process.  She experimentally took a hand away from one ear just in time to hear a particularly off note be followed by a sharp twang and a startled squawk.  Broken lute string?  She had given up hoping that would shut him up.

The tower thing was ridiculous all around, and she had plenty of things to say about the arrangements for her so-called comfort if she ever got the chance.  She was beyond sick of looking at the walls in here and so bored that nearly anything would have been an improvement.  But this?

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Trifecta: First Blood

Posted in Calere, Fiction on January 28th, 2013 by Annabelle – 36 Comments

“Hang in there, Dane.  We’ll be there soon.”  There was no more response than the last three times.  Cy told himself it was probably a good thing that Dane had passed out.   Easier that way.

Cy winced as the wagon jolted and his fingers, slippery with blood, slid across the increasingly saturated pad above Dane’s left hip.  He swore quietly.  Dane was looking far too white, and as for the wound, Cy was afraid to lift up the pad again to look.  The mouth of the wound had been ragged after the captain had pulled the arrow out, and the blood was still coming no matter how hard he pressed.  Cy was far from sure that yanking the arrow that way had been the right thing to do — it was bleeding so much — but he had no idea what else they could have done.

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The Inquisition

Posted in Fiction, Tacar on January 24th, 2013 by Annabelle – 8 Comments

The servant quietly closed the door behind her, leaving behind a motionless tableau: the Emperor’s first wife, Lady Cahlila, and three teenaged girls standing before her in a line.  Raicha tried not to let her eyes drop to the mosaic under her feet.  It was a fine example, three centuries old, but she’d seen it before, and as Camilia was always saying, showing guilt was as bad as getting caught.

Cahlila leaned back in her chair and gave them a considering look from those famously brilliant eyes.  Camilia, next to Raicha, met the look evenly, nearly identical eyes showing nothing but polite inquiry.  The corner of her mother’s mouth lifted slightly.  Camilia’s half-sister Sai, standing on Camilia’s other side, stood straight and tall.  Raicha envied her ease.

“Lady Dahla had a very bad reaction to one of her paints this morning.”  They had known that.  Rumors in the hallways varied, but the overall trend suggested that she had a face full of hives and was refusing to come out of her rooms.

“Cosmetic creams go bad so quickly in the summer,” Camilia murmured sympathetically.  Her mother clearly did not believe that for a second, but faint amusement said it had been an acceptable parry.  “And she needs so many of them.”  That had been almost inaudible but Cahlila’s lips twitched.

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