“Thank you for seeing me.” Oneida bowed to Talaeshin, knowing that elves shunned skin-to-skin contact.
The foremost expert on orc history being an elf was unsurprising. Their long lifespans had made elves lore-keepers long before there had been historians. This one answered in a tone of cool disinterest, “Yes. You were very persistent.”
“This is important. May I…?” She waved a folder into the room and after getting a nod of permission slid past a big box standing partly in the was to the nearly empty desk. On it she laid out notes and photos of old human bones taken on site of an archaeological dig.
While she worked, Talaeshin said, “Few people treat matters of an extinct species as urgent.”
“History is important,” she answered without thinking. “And I wonder if history is wrong. These photos—”
“And wherever did you get those?”
“The dig at Crane Mountain, where they wanted to build a new hotel,” Oneida evaded, “but the important thing is that that there were toothmarks on those bones much too narrow for orcs, no matter what the press spreads already. Someone else needs to review this, of course, but if it’s true, it’s a strong argument for examining remains from older sites.”
Nodding, Talaeshin said, “No respect for the rest of the dead.” He raised his hand to forestall Oneida’s protest and continued, “Do you have any speculations what creature left these toothmarks?”
Forcing herself to not shrink back, she said, “One set at least is definitely elven. It seems… interesting.”
“No? But don’t you see—”
“You fail to see, naturally, that this is not news.” Talaeshin’s tone grew sharper. “History is what we allow to be written down, and this we won’t.”
He made a sharp downwards gesture and Oneida found herself mute and rooted to the spot. She had never believed the stories about elves wielding magic. She thought she should panic, but her heartbeat was slowing down.
“You are right. Orcs were, in fact, mostly herbivorous.” He laid a hand on her shoulder and lowered his face to hers, smiling. “I, on the other hand, have inherited a recipe from my grandmother I would love to try on you.”
Based on the prompt "What if elves were actually horrible, and orcs were decent, but the elves have better PR so they've just managed to convince people of the opposite? " by Elizabeth Barette aka ysabetwordsmith
Commuting by bus had a big advantage in addition to not having to look for a parking space which Elsa never mentioned, in case other people would consider her selfish: It gave her privacy for a while. Between heeding “no cellphones” signs and being surrounded by strangers, she had twice twenty minutes each day to relax, usually without being bothered by anyone.
She had heard of friendships started on the bus, but of the few people she recognised most belonged to the group of punks loitering at the main station. A boy with a hooked nose who changed hair colours more often than his clothes, a girl with the rat riding on her shoulder, and their half-dozen friends, drinking in broad daylight, talking loud enough their voices carried to the office three streets away sometimes, littering, and generally acting as if they owned the world. Some days Elsa carried her briefcase as a shield between herself in her business suit and that crowd, other days she switched it to whichever hand was farthest from them, as if they might snatch it. Only occasionally she even noticed what she was doing, and even more rarely she realised that they had never taken notice of her.
Hyper-aware as she was of their imagined threat, she even noticed a newcomer with her head swimming from a monster of a meeting, frustrated at being mostly ignored by her colleagues. Two hours late, and the last bus of the day gearing up to leave, Elsa hurried through the fry-fat smell of biodiesel behind the bus, and missed her footing on the high curb. There was a crack and a crunch, and she found herself dizzy and on her knees on the platform, suddenly close to tears. Oh god, it’s backed over my briefcase and I skinned my knee like a little girl and it’s all so embarrassing.
She pushed herself up, wiping her hands against each other to get rid of the grit. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the punks staring, and the newcomer, a guy with bright green hair and so many tattoos on his arms there was barely and skin in sight, approached her with long steps.
Looking to the left at the bus, she saw more people staring, and the driver getting out, looking... almost sick. Elsa hoped it wasn’t too obvious that his discomfort made her feel better, less awkward and alone.
“Hello! Are you ready for an adventure?”
The voice made Elsa jump, and when the words registered, she answered the punk with a hostile stare. “Go away.”
He smiled down at her -- what was it with kids these days being so awfully tall? -- and answered, “Sorry, ma’am, just doing my job.”
“Oh, go find someone else to mock. Or an actual job, even better.” Elsa raked a trembling hand through her hair and looked at the ground, left and right. Where had her briefcase ended up?
After a few moments the punk asked gently, “Why haven’t you looked behind you yet?”
The dread this suggestion evoked stopped her breath for a moment. Her voice was a tiny squeak. “I can’t.” She stared at the ground. Old glass shards glittered in the cracks between the cobblestones. A hand rose into her field of vision. Only now she noticed the tattoos on the punk’s arm didn’t consist of abstract swirls of colour, or feature flames and bones and knives, like she had unthinkingly expected. Those sleeves were made up of nothing but butterflies, wing-edge to wing-edge.
“You know what happened.” His voice was soft and sympathetic.
“I’m not... Do I have to?”
“Knowing is better, and seeing helps knowing.”
When she took the offered hand, Elsa finally became aware that the bus driver and a few other people were milling around, but ignoring her completely. She turned and looked over her shoulder, for a glance at her body. The bus had backed up right when she had fallen backwards.
She sighed. “Typical. When you think things are at their worst, something’s going to prove you wrong. I’d expected something like a water pipe or major appliance breaking.” It was a rather feeble attempt at humour, but helped steady her. She was glad for someone to hold her hand, even a rather alarming-looking stranger. “So, what now?” She squelched worries about what this would do to her colleagues and friends, deciding right now it was time to be selfish.
“You need a rest, and a change. A chance to become more yourself.” His warm smile widened a bit, eyes narrowing in amusement. “You seem to be more optimistic in your soul than in your habits, for instance.”
“Or I wouldn’t have pitched forward?”
“Exactly.” He offered his other hand, too, and Elsa took it.
The colours of his tattoos seemed to become even more vivid, the grey concrete and cobbles around them fading to nothing. Elsa felt light and warm, and watched with delight as the world broke into fluttering shards of colour, jewel-bright. Her last giddy thought was that a riot of butterflies was prettier than angel wings.
The candle lantern was a heirloom that woke bittersweet memories. It had belonged to Kat’s grandmother, whom she loved. The loss still hurt, after all those years, but this little memento helped her remember the good times.
Kat would light a beeswax candle, its light still warmer through the yellow glass, its honey-fragrance mixing with the smell of hot metal and taking her back to evenings spent listening to her grandmother’s stories.
She would sometimes nod off. It was those occasions upon which the spirit of the lamp entered her open mind, mining for memories of lullabies and embraces.
The spirit brought them forth into Kat’s dreaming mind, rebuilding a shadow of the utter safety she had felt as a child.
It kept her seeking the lantern out for company, more when she was in need of support, vulnerable. Singing old songs no-one else would hear, the spirit took wisps of Kat’s life for itself, feeding its own essence. Knowing there was a risk the lamp would disappear in an attic or worse, it resolved to be careful, make her last, but she tasted so, so sweet.
Mary froze at the edge of the clearing. There really was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! Her bare feet slipped on damp leaves as she rushed towards the prize, until the ground gave way.
The pot hid the bottom of the pit with a dull thud close to her head, spilling its contents, big, glittering discs. “Fool’s gold”, she whispered, and unsteadily reached for the closest.
“Actual gold is quite useless, you know.”
She looked up at the gnome who was grinning down at her from the edge of the trap. “You sure like your jokes.”
“I like catching friends of shinies. You will be happy to mine them, yes?”
“You’re only coming out if you agree.” The gnome sounded like an older sister giving a toddler an ultimatum.
Mary snorted and stood up. Her hip hurt from the fall, but the pit couldn’t be that deep.
The moment she took a step towards its edge, the gnome lifted a gun she must have had next to her, and aimed it at Mary. Still grinning, still sounding cheerful, she said, “Or you come out dead. I am all kinds of hunter, you know.”
Shobha Kaur enjoyed the view out of the window of the sparsely furnished office she was a “guest” in, while her “host” prattled on. Outside looked darker than it should be — some foil applied to the glass maybe — but since she did not think she would get out again, she might as well.
“Doctor Kaur, are you listening?”
She made an apologetic noise and turned to the bureaucrat.
The other woman’s skin was pale, almost grey; her hand when she greeted Shobha had been cold. Vampires not hiding themselves anymore was one of the recent developments.
“Well, then let me sum up,” she said with a sigh. “Our organisation is very grateful for your part in lobbying for vampire and lycanthrope rights, and would like to thank you with a grand gesture. Even if the ‘until they’re healed’ codicils were not all that popular.”
Her chipper tone grated on Shobha’s nerves. If Shobha could go back in time, she’d rather shoot herself than let her spread those ideas.
The vampire continued, “Your choice now: would you rather turn into a vampire, or a werewolf?”
A bloodthirsty monster either way. “I’d rather die.”
“That, my dear, is part of the process.”
Based on the prompt "A human key to allowing werewolves, vampires, and other fantasy monster types to go public is 'rewarded' after they go from hiding, to being in the open, to seizing control." by LilFluff
By Yana's reckoning, it had been a month since the king of dragons ate the sun. She had been lucky enough to join a group of two dozen refugees. Together they had found shelter from the cold and strangeness of the sunless surface in a cave, pretending the sun was only stolen to keep their hope alive. Something stolen might be returned.
It was all the same to Yana. None of them was the stuff you made legendary heroes of. The most useful member of their group of refugees was an enemy, even, a lower echelon mage-priest that had served the dragons before turning renegade. Watching him sitting in the centre of the cave, twitchy and watchful like a rat if anybody got near, she was convinced he had turned tail not out of and moral conviction, but fear of being backstabbed. It would make no difference in the long run.
He used magic to give them at least a few hours of light each day, literally making their days, and the effort seemed to warm him. The others in their coats or blankets, if they were lucky enough to have any. In the cave they were not cut to ribbons by blizzards, but it was still too cold to live. To say nothing of food.
A small commotion around the mage drew Yana's interest. Gilmey was arguing, his son cradled in his arms. The boy was coughing and shivering violently. She mage shook his head, and things went back and forth until he, reluctantly, agreed to “do something” for them.
He raised his arms and closed his eyes. The faint glow they had got used to spread out and brightened. Yana turned her face to in and closed her eyes, soaking up the warmth.
When raised voices drew her attention back to the centre of the cave, the mage was trembling with tension. Sparks and lightning danced from his hands down his body and up, crackling when they hit the ceiling. A louder crack sounded, rock breaking.
So he lost control. Of course. Yana felt strangely tranquil. She did not try to scream and run. There was no use.
Based on the prompt "The sun is gone, the dark forces have won and are ruling the lands. Magic is dangerous and usually ends up killing lots of people." by Robert S.
Ignoring her aching muscles, Janissa dragged the cowed suit across the yard of the experimental farm by his revers. It had taken a lot of self-control to not shoot him in the face. For what needed to be done, her shotgun wasn’t enough. She wasn’t even aware she was muttering strings of curses punctuated with repetitions of “deliberately”.
“None of the tests suggested any danger,” the guy whined. “There must have been a mutation.”
“Or maybe rats are not humans! Don’t give me your stupid excuses. Where can we get gasoline here?”
His eyes went even wider. “Look, I’m all for terminating the experiment and destroying the enhancement—”
“Virus!” Janissa snapped. “Stop the propaganda-speech.”
“Virus, but an uncontrolled fire might do more harm than good.”
“And risk monsters running wild?”
Janissa stopped and faced him, narrowing her eyes at his tone. “What?”
“You may have a point about humans being different. They seem to be the only species that goes all, you know… bloodthirsty. The cattle just gets slow and apathetic.”
“That I want to see. And you go in first.” She emphasised her point by tipping her shotgun in his general direction.
He nodded to that happily enough, and led Janissa into the barn.
She followed wearily, fearing a trap even though her gut feeling said he wasn’t up to setting one. All she saw were cows standing where they belonged, placidly. As the guy stood aside, she had a look at the nearest animal. Janissa had no direct experience with cows, but she didn’t think its nose should be grey and cracking. Was it even breathing?
Her drafted guide had calmed down and actually answered her muttered “What the hell were they thinking?”
“The… virus slows down the metabolism, particularly in the extremities, but affects the digestion and milk production hardly at all. The result is more milk per pound of fodder, and besides, they are sluggish and less… prone… to…” He would down and swallowed in the face of Janissa’s glare.
“So everyone in my neighbourhood who wasn’t lactose intolerant turned into a zombie to maximise your profits.” After a beat she added, “Go away before I shoot you.”
The first time morning glory grew right through the wall into Rina’s bedroom was almost funny. Sometimes she let it grow up the bar of a shelf, which did not take long, before ripping it out. The blooms were pretty, and unlike potted plants did not require her watering.
Rina was still relieved when she moved to a different flat, without plants growing through the walls. At least there had not been any in the first week. Morning glory must really like me, she thought, when the first thing she saw after waking up was the tip of a twine climbing up the wall. Since the landlord was unresponsive, she closed the cracks they grew through herself with putty — repeatedly, since the morning glory always found a way around it.
When one spring morning she woke up with morning glory tendrils wrapped around her arms, she had enough, and started looking for another place to stay. Ridiculous, fleeing from flowers, but apparently “grows like a weed” had some basis in fact
She was lucky: a few of her friends had been considering buying a house, if they could find someone else to live in and pay rent. Rina jumped at the opportunity, under the condition of getting a bedroom well above ground level.
Living with friends worked out better than she thought, which she blamed on not having to share a room. It improved her social life immensely having people around to talk to.
The persistent morning glory turned into a joke. It turned into something else when her friends found her body, strangled by a flower.
Elke was not surprised when she spotted Regina at the flea market, only that Regina already seemed to be on the way out, a wooden box with brass fitting wedged under her arm and a self-satisfied smile spread across her face.
“Am I that late? You found something already?”
“Oh yes, I got lucky.” Regina looked Elke up and down. “If you just arrived, how about we meet next weekend?” Usually they went to have tea together if they found each other at a flea market, to show off whatever they had found. “There’s at least one stand with books that might interest you. And this will look better with a bit of polish.”
“All right.” Elke thought it unusual for Regina to not launch into a monologue about her purchase, but if the other woman wanted to make it a big surprise, why not?