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Holmes Academy WIP story preview

“Your unkind words will not dishearten me today.” He drew himself up and held a finger up with purpose, too triumphant to be discouraged from whatever speech he settled on. “I’ve paid you a visit because it’s the last weekend before summer, so Min and I will depart for our homes soon. As the top three students of this esteemed academy founded in the name of the prestigious Sherlock Holmes—”

“I will jump out this window,” she promised, nodding to the arched window frame between them. Undaunted, Everitt beamed and brought his ramble to a surprisingly early close.

“It’s only proper that we have a farewell party.”

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Into My Shadow: Loren Character Introduction

Word count: 800 (2 to 7 minutes) | Rating: T | Original Fiction: Into My Shadow | Note: Fantasy races (common), magic, post-apocalyptic setting

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Radiant Dance of Year 1: Shrouded Era

Not as bright as it once was, the summer sun still burned its way through the smog surrounding them to warm Loren’s skin. Maybe it would feel different when she was out there for real, not training in some course hastily set up next to the runners’ base.

Her braid swung out behind her as she leapt over the simple fence in her path, using that momentum to roll over her shoulder beneath the next fence after it. Loren barely cleared that when a training staff came down from her right flank. Raising her wooden shield, it caught the blow in her stead with enough force to ripple down her arm. She pushed off from her crouched position to stand and force the staff away—which shouldn’t have worked half as well as it did. He was going easy on her and they both knew it.

No one asked him to.

He stepped into a wide, bracing stance, and narrowed green eyes at her as he squared his shoulders. If she struck, he was ready for it. And she was ready for that. Human men were generally muscular, well-built, and sturdy. Nothing like dwarves, but a far cry from elves like Loren. But she knew how to leverage her lithe build in her favor over his staunch one. That skill was years in the making by then. He jolted the staff’s end towards her to break her guard, Loren parried that end aside to make an opening, and he spun the other end of the staff up at her head. Ducking again, she jabbed her sparring sword upward towards his chest. With his relatively tall height for a human, that could be enough to stagger him, even without the rules of their training leaving him “wounded” by the blow.

All that, and it was the soft-tipped arrow zipping by her to bounce off his chest that took him out of their mock run.

“Loren,” her trainee-in-arms called out, only barely looking out from behind his cover. Dwarves were hardy, but he knew better than to stand out in the open even if he could take the hit. As one of the defenders in their crew, that was more her job anyway.

With a sharp nod, she darted across the small field to his hedge.

“Thanks,” she offered and he smiled, knocking another arrow.

“Who’s counting?”

“They are.” Noyo, of course. As one of the first runners in Brook Mills, they helped prepare others for the transformed world. That was only two months ago now. It felt longer. They weren’t the most capable runner, according to the village, but they were the best teacher. Patient but firm, they were both realistic and encouraging in their lessons. The townspeople would have to agree to disagree with Loren on the first part.

Noyo waited on the porch, still decorated from the building’s days as an inn, and sand fell through an hourglass next to them on a weathered handrail.

“Right.”

“Wait—” Too late, Loren reached for him as his path sent him tumbling into one the shallow pitfall traps the trained runners set up. Shallow for her, anyway. She could just barely meet his worried gaze, brows knit and forehead smeared with dirt from his fall.

“Don’t go.”

He’d never make it out of there alone. Glancing up to the hourglass, Loren couldn’t make out how much time was left. Not a good sign. The third trainee had gone ahead from the very beginning, and she was already waiting at the end goal, tossing a magic ball of light back and forth in her hands as she waited. Loren frowned at her. If anyone deserved to fall into a ditch, it was that woman.

“I’ll get you out.” Grabbing some rope left on the ground as part of the mock wreckage they could find out there, Loren tied a quick knot, familiar from so much repetition, and tossed the rope down to him. Reaching down, she explained the first step. “The bow.”

He wasted no time passing that up, then climbing his way up as she stood guard. No one was left to threaten them, but that wasn’t the point of this test. She had to prove herself a good runner in all circumstances. So Loren would defend him until he was safe, and the fence post anchored him much better than she ever could.

“Thanks,” he breathed, taking his bow from her.

“Let’s go.”


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© October 2020 | Jam Blute

Nate Saito: Bittersweet 16th

Word count: 650 (1 to 5 minutes) | Rating: G | Original Fiction | Note: absent parent

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The trolley didn’t stop outside his house, which was set back from the main streets on the edge of a not-great neighborhood. They managed just fine in the city anyway. Nate marched up the slight hill, opening the front door and dropping his shoes and bag just inside on the racks for each.

“I’m home, Mom,” he raised his voice while he locked the door behind him and smiled at the smell from dinner tonight. Spices and the warmth from the oven spread through the pagoda—one of the benefits of a small house. “Tom threw a sci-fi comic at me when I got to his place. I think that’s my birthday present…?”

He liked the beginning of it, anyway. Something about a rough-and-tumble rogue type getting caught up in a plot involving the survival of the galaxy. Not original, maybe, but pretty cool. Nate heard his mom pacing around and clacking a spoon against a pan in the kitchen, so why didn’t she answer him? He eased towards the kitchen, leaning to peek around the hallway’s corner. “Mom…?”

He jumped when she tossed confetti in the air, grinning. “Happy 16th, Nathaniel!” 

The light laugh forced its way out of him, and he flicked some confetti from his hair. A couple years back exactly, she helped him bleach the tips and style it in a faux hawk. Nate didn’t ask for anything that involved this year, since he’d learned to manage that on his own. He was happy enough getting tech and tools to make more things. Sometimes presents for her, so it was a little circular, but Nate didn’t mind. When you got down to it, that was the least he could do.

“Putting the botvac to the test, huh?”

She chuckled, pointing behind her to the cake on the table with letter candles sticking out to spell ‘Happy Birthday’. “Oh, sweetie. That already happened once I made that.”

Nate glanced from it to her, smirking and raising his eyebrows to ask the question he had in mind. She nodded with a sly smile, a strand of black hair falling loose from her bun into her face. “Raspberry cream, just like you asked.”

Of course, that meant he had to take a test taste, jogging over to swipe a fingertip of frosting from the top. Reflexively, she smacked his shoulder playfully once she caught up.

“You get one pass, birthday boy!” She passed him to the heart of the kitchen, taking out two plates from the cabinets and forks from the drawer. 

“Yeah, yeah,” he teased.  Closing the drawer with a bump of her hip, she circled back around to meet him by the seat he chose at the table. Nate shifted uncomfortably and traced  the dappled pattern on the tablecloth with his finger. Like that would make the real question  any easier when he had no choice but to ask about it. He could be direct or indirect, it didn’t matter. Nate knew the answer already anyway. “Did you, uhh, get the mail? Today?”

Of course she sighed. Quiet, just a breath like any other, but he heard it all too clear. Almost deafening and definitely crushing. “Honey,” she started and the sympathy hanging in her words confirmed what he knew to begin with.

“Nah, forget I asked.” Nate waved it off, resting back and tapping the table in front of him. If he just managed to look alright, the rest would come after. It had to. “Let’s just have the cake, okay? It’s fine, really.”

She put both plates in front of him, wrapping her arms around his shoulders with the back of the chair wedged awkwardly between them—not that he cared. Nate buried his face in her arms, the ones that carried him, helped him learn to ride a bike, held him, always there—always there. His breath hitched even when he tried to hold it back.

“All we need’s right here, baby,” she whispered, her voice thick too. “I’ll always love you.”


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Into My Shadow: Mari Character Introduction

Word count: 1600 (3 to 13 minutes) | Rating: T | Original Fiction: Into My Shadow | Note: Fantasy races (common and original), magic, post-apocalyptic setting

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The Blossoming of Year 185: Dawn’s Strike Era

The streets of Garres were like veins, carrying goods and people wherever they needed to go in the city. Sometimes, to places they’d rather not be. Reliable and chaotic, the contradictory way life worked anywhere else. It made the cobblestone streets easy to map in her mind, especially with practice. Anyone could tell the sunbaked almshouse walls from the lofty towers of the governmental district, but only a local could get from one to the other without being late or lost.

Exactly why living in one place for years wasn’t so bad.

Mari knew the routes and schedules of most carriages there. Not to mention basically everyone who kept the city’s blood pumping. Not that any of them really saw her. She was known for her ties to the Union. Only the half-elf who ran their errands and did their chores. Beyond that, she was no more than one of the strangers outside. And it was incredible, the things people let you see and hear when you were invisible.

But if there was one skill she had mastered, it had to be knowing when to wait for the right moment.

The morning mail coach came soaring down the road, and everyone knew they had the run of the road. Stopping one meant paying a fine—even if you did it by mistake. Mari was in a hurry too, poised to hop across the street on the raised steppingstones the moment it went by. She was close enough to feel it rush past, and a small splash from puddles of yesterday’s rain hit her boots. Nothing that wouldn’t dry. Especially if she ran, and she always did.

Her boots barely tapped against each roughly circular stone that kept people above the water, waste, and manure, then she was on the other side. The poor ladies and gentlemen serving the country from its capital couldn’t do that in their fine heeled shoes and fluffy wigs. Their jobs seemed important with all the shouting, but pretty stifling. So long as she did hers to avoid getting yelled at herself, it didn’t matter.

Darting around frantic storeroom maids in the center of the market square, Mari made her way to the weapons and armor marketplace. The heavy smell of molten metal and coal from smithies burned her nostrils before she even saw the magic shops. All the stores there were more like workshops where you could buy goods, not like the tents and stalls of most other places. Maybe the merchants of magical wares didn’t quite belong there, but there they were. No one really wanted to see them while they picked out a new suit before the festival season or resupplied on early summer vegetables and wines.

Pulling the empty satchel up her shoulder, Mari kept her eyes up and stuck close to the wall. The only people around the weapons shops were assistants to the Guard Captain, hunters, and mercenaries. They covered the whole nation’s people: dwarves, elves, people with mixed descent like her, and even the lone chiali now and again. None of them were gifted with patience for anything that didn’t apply to their work, or none that Mari knew. All she had to be was fast and out of their way. She had to move quickly anyway since it would be hot and muggy soon, and Mari wouldn’t be up to as much running.

She ducked into the open rounded doorway of the mages’ goods shop soon enough. Could have done it with her eyes closed, but it was better that she didn’t.

“Hm?” The shopkeep frowned over the counter, glaring down at her from his stool. That sternness was just part of his expression, she learned that shortly after they first met years ago. He was framed by jars of all kinds of magical goods, some open and easy to reach and others sealed and locked on the top shelves behind the front counter. His thick, black moustache with flecks of grey twitched with his ‘tsk’. Fat fingers tied off the thin rope around some gathered stems of faintly glowing thistles that she didn’t recognize. Not yet. The dwarf was no mage, but he knew more than she’d ever forget about magic in the wild—and he liked to remind anyone who came in of that. “Just you, is it?”

“Yeah,” she said with a nod, dropping the rolled parchment on the counter. The Union’s crest was emblazoned on the outside beside the ribbon holding it closed—a precaution for all their parchment in case something important was lost, supposedly. “Got the whole Union order here.”

He kept that surprising delicate touch from the flowers when he swept up the scroll, pulling the ribbon loose to unroll it. From habit, he muttered it out loud as his dull blue eyes moved down the list.

That week’s resupply trip called for more of what Mari recognized. No Union storeroom run was complete without basic healing herbs, but this one included various roots and powders to carve into protective sigils on armor and shields. Plus some fake-sounding items like will-‘o-the-wisp dust. Mari read about them in the Union’s in-house library when most people were asleep, and she doubted they gave off anything like dust. If finding your way back to your original spot after getting tricked by a will-‘o-the-wisp only meant following a dust trail, why did people stay lost?

But if the Union mages asked for it, it had to be real. Maybe it wasn’t literal. Like sprigs of baby’s breath.

“The glass is new,” she interrupted his mumbling and pointed to the windows. Usually, just fancy clothes and jewelry stores had glass windows, but they had gotten more common in other shops with decent sales. Having the Union buying through him most of the time would do that for his profits. She heard him stomping down the ladder from his stool while she leaned to check for outside hinges through the window. “Kept the shutters. Smart.”

“Mmhm. Wait here.”

Wait, he said, like it ever took him long. Mari was barely taller than him when she did her first supply run for the Union, and she was amazed at how quickly he measured and packaged everything. While he worked, she put her satchel up on the counter and flipped it open for him just in time for him to nestle the first bag of herbs in.

“Walk gently,” he ordered as he pat down a box of packed powder.

“Understood.”

“Not how you usually dart around here.” He pierced her with another glare, tossing the tired leather flap over her bag to close it.

“Yes, sir.”

“I mean it.” Punctuating that with a calloused fingertip pointed at her, he moved the bag over to her open hands at the counter’s edge.

“I said yes,” she repeated with an uneasy grimace, not sure what else he wanted. Mari raised the shoulder strap over her head for the steadier carrying it obviously needed.

“And this.” Less gently, he brought a package up onto the smooth wooden countertop and pushed it over to her. The wrapping job wasn’t like his usual. No practical plain paper held in place with twine, but deep slate blue paper with thick silver ribbon adorning it. The contents were clearly a book. Mari softened her grimace but didn’t reach for it. In all the years she knew him, he didn’t adorn anything. If someone wanted to get a gift to a member of the Mages’ Union, they wouldn’t go through him and definitely not her. Even a surprise gift would be better off handled by actual delivery people.

“What’s this?”

“For you.” Glancing back down to it and again to him, Mari closed her hand around the strap over her chest. This just got more and more confusing. Who would give her something? Mari didn’t talk to anyone she didn’t have to, so there was no one to send her an unexpected present.

“What for?”

“A gift,” he observed, being his usual blunt self, but without any of clarity that usually came with it. He must have read something in her glance at the present because he muttered something before offering something she could hear. “If you get your mind set on working at that place ‘til you’re grey, you need to be serious about educating yourself. Before you get killed.”

“Alright,” she asked, as bewildered as ever. No one got a nice shop with glass windows and shutters because they gave out gifts to the spry little stray running tasks for the Union. Still, she picked up the package. It was heavier than she guessed it would be… Probably two books, then. Trading the grimace for a level stare, Mari thanked the stars she was talking to someone who didn’t waste words. “But what’s that to you?”

The long hairs of his moustache ruffled in his scoff as he settled back up onto his stool. Leaning over the counter, he almost looked like he was smirking. “You have a birthday, don’t you?”

“Suppose I do.” Giving him a shrug, she continued her answer. “Not sure when it is, though.”

“In that case, doesn’t matter when you get a present.” Nodding to the book, he scooched back into his seat and reached for another bundle of glowing thistle. “There’s your gift.”

“From?” He quirked an eyebrow, clearly at his limit for questions. She should have figured it was straight from him anyway. The people who knew about her and magic and also apparently had a reason to present her with a new book… Well, there weren’t a lot of them. “Right. Thanks.”

“Mmhm. Don’t die.”


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© September 2020 | Jam Blute