Sunday, September 15, 2013

All the Best Mistakes Part 1

Welcome to the first post of a longer short story! This, like many of my short stories, is based on a dream I had. I got to thinking after I had the dream why there weren't that many fantasy stories set in a stone age world? You see more sword and sorcery stories and less atlatl and sorcery. Why? If you have magic what would that do to weaponry? How would magic be used in a society with few to no metal weapons or tools?

Sometimes dreams can be a gold mine of inspiration writing wise, other times you dream about being trapped in a mall underneath a gas station and...hey wait...that might be a good idea too.

By the way, Spellcheck doesn't know what atlatl is.

Many of my stories will features subjects and ideas that I haven't seen in books or shows that personally I'd like to read about. I fear part of that is I'm just not very well read and need to be more adventurous when reading books, but at least I wont have to worry about accidentally stealing someone else's ideas.  The stories I post here will also be in a variety of genres, tenses and themes. So "All the Best Mistakes" is fantasy, with magic and demon men and the like, but I have several Science Fiction shorts in the works as well as thrillers.

I will be posting Part 1 today, then Part 2 on October 1st. Each post will have a small illustration with it (I went kind of artsy with this one, not sure it works, let me know!) After the last Part of "All the Best Mistakes" has been posted the next two posts will be flash fiction pieces, 1000 words or less, but that will be some time in the future.

Without further ado here is Part 1 of "All the Best Mistakes."

Please enjoy and thanks for reading!


All The Best Mistakes Part 1
By Sarah "Neila" Elkins

     Going to the city was a mistake, but a necessary one as most mistakes I tend to make have been. Staying at the Temple was a mistake. Fleeing with the Shaman was a mistake. It was not my battle, but it rarely is. That is in the past. So now we are in the city of Polis, the largest city this side of the desert. It's easier to hide around other people than in the sand like a louse lizard. A tide of bodies flows into and out of the city of Polis each day. Strangers, travelers, royalty, warriors, magi, Shaman and troubadours from around the world come and go from Polis daily. A Shaman and a Cuitapilli traveling together will blend in. We hope.
     “How did you manage to get us a room to ourselves?” Tura sits on the edge of the roughly made wooden bench in the small room I rented for us.
    Tura clutches her staff, “I mean, a room like this isn't cheap right? And to get it to didn't-”
    “I didn't 'sway' them. I had some beads. That was enough for the inn keeper to give us the room for a few nights. We can stay here, sleep, get supplies and leave before Orum's men have a chance to realize we're here much less search the whole city.”
     I've had the beads since my stay in the islands of Uchon. The beads are made of colorful pieces of shell, rare this far inland and worth far more than the room. I have been using the beads as barter for months and still have some left. I make a mental note to make some more beads out of whatever I can. They wont be worth as much as those made from shell, but the same technique can be used and they're better than nothing.
     I'm snapped back to the present by Tura's response, “A man like Orum will search the whole city.”
     She is right. Tura is right.
     Orum had lead a raiding party to ransack the Temple Tura is from two nights before, the Temple I had made the mistake of staying at when I had entered the desert nation. Orum was searching for power, for her. She is one of the most powerful Shaman I have ever met, but she can barely see the world around her. The toll of her power will continue to wear on her eyes until all she can see on her own is darkness, or so I hear. It means she will always need someone to act as her eyes. Someone who is magic inclined. Someone like me.
     Tura looks conspicuous on her own. Her vivid white fabric robes are woven by magic in the Temple and lined with maroon accents dyed by using the rich juice of cactus fruit. She is Two-Spirit, the most powerful of Shamans and she looks glorious. She is far from her Temple without official business to attend to.
     Why would a Shaman of her standing be in Polis? Much less with me?
     I with Tura look suspicious. I wear clothing I made myself, scraps of discarded leather and hides I tanned myself stitched together with sinew and a bone needle, all of which can be removed and used as barter. My hair is unwashed, my horns are not clean and my tail twitches when I'm nervous, which surrounded by so many people as live in Polis is nearly all the time. Why would a Shaman travel with a lowly Cuitapilli?
    Because she is on the run.
    I do not want to leave her in the room alone. We were separated from her Temple guards, a man and woman I had dined with three nights before, after the Temple was attacked. If they were captured Orum could deduce that we were in Polis, but he could figure that out on his own if he was not an idiot. I doubt a man with that many people at his beck and call is an idiot. Smart people don't follow the orders of an idiot, at least they shouldn't.
     "Do you think Vassa and Haret will find us in the city?"
     I know she can use my eyes as her own, but do not know how far her ability goes beyond that?
     "I don't know. Could you send them a message?"
     Tura closes her eyes, "Only if I had some of their hair."
     "Remind me to get you some of that if we see them again."
     "But...Haret's bald."
     "He's bound to have hair somewhere," I smile.
     "Ugh, I'd rather no think about that. Eww."
     I figure she doesn't have to read my mind to know what I'm thinking. I use my smaller obsidian knife to cut off a sizable chunk of my own hair from near one of my horns on the top of my head, "Here. Keep this safe."
     Tura's face falls like a dropped bowl, "You're not leaving me are you?"
     "I need to get us food, water. See if I can spot Vassa or Haret in the city. Uh, you can use my eyes if I'm not nearby right?"
     My knowledge of magic is mostly self taught, which may have contributed to my mistake of choosing to stay in the Temple. The chance to be around magic users that knew what they were doing was intriguing as most of my experience with magic has been using Sway to get out of trouble or ember breathe to start a camp fire, both things that come easily to a Cuitapilli.
     "I can but...It's harder the further you are away. The link is made though, I may not need your hair to contact you..." She looks like she is about to begin sobbing so I gently give her a kiss on the top of her head. Her hair is surprisingly clean with the smell of pleasant flowers, not too sweet, despite our trek through the wasteland of sand between her Temple and the city, "It will be alright. No matter where I am, if you need me call my name and I will be at your side."
     " mean like a summon?" Tura's eyes light up. She can't focus on anything farther than a hand length from her face but I can see the pieces of a plan are coming together in her mind.
     "Summon?" What is that?
     "Go. Get food. If something happens I will call you! Like you said. Until then I'll be here, resting"
     "Are you sure?" My tail begins to twitch nervously but I stop it, mindful of my body language. The thought that she probably can't see the minute movement of my tail doesn't cross my mind.
     Tura pushes me toward the heavy stone door, "Yes! Yes! Go. We need to eat. See if you can find the others. I will wait and rest."
     The door to the room moves smoothly if pressed in the right spot, bearings, I heard it called once but I've never seen what a bearings looks like. Tura forces me against that 'right spot' and before I know it I am outside of the room, she is inside the room, and I'm checking to make sure my tail didn't get caught in the gap. No sense wasting time. The moons will be full tonight but that doesn't guarantee the market will still be open.

    I find the market. Dear Gods it's bigger than I imagined, a city in it's own right that winds thorough Polis like roots thorough the soil. I keep my tail close so it doesn't get stepped on and make a quick mental assessment of what I have on me to barter. A few Uchonian beads, my vest, made of Kaset hides, some of my older knives that are more chipped than I like. It's always a mistake to go without a knife, they can break at anytime. I can make more but it takes time and the right stones.
     I follow my nose to the smell of cooked meats. The meat venders might not want a pelt since they trade those themselves, but they might want my larger knife. I want to hang on to my remaining beads as long as I can.
     The meats will be fine for me but I noticed Tura's reluctance to eat much meat at the Temple. She favored berries and tubers, so with her in mind I keep going. I've been without food before and know I can catch some of the fat little birds that perch on the clay buildings in Polis if necessary. I find one of the city's well springs and fill up my two water skins while I think over the whole situation I've found myself in once again. Thinking and rethinking. My family used to call me "Star Eyes" because I would always be staring at the night sky thinking. Utzi Star Eyes.
     Why had Orum attacked the Temple? His men were looking for something, or someone that much was obvious. They searched room by room and left many of the 'holy items' that could be worth a fortune to some behind. My thinking is that they must have been after Tura the Shaman. Orum may believe that she could be easy to control because of her poor vision. They didn't count on a Cuitapilli taking advantage of the Temple's open door policy.
     As I finish filling my second water skin I scan the area of the market around the well. There is no shortage of choice regarding berries and tubers, there are at least three tents near me with baskets full of the things. I quietly note to myself the lack of Cuitapilli in the area, but also note the lack of stares in my direction. All travelers welcome. Good. Time to barter for berries, I recall Tura liked the red ones.
     "Are these good to eat?" I ask the woman at the stand selling berries and tubers first, she seems surprised.
     "I wouldn't think a Cuitapilli would be interested in them, but yes, they're quite sweet."
     I hate sweet things.
     I sniff one but can tell absolutely nothing about their quality due to my lack of knowledge.
     "Care to try one?"
     I try not to cringe as I take a bite of the large red berry. It's not as sweet as I feared but the strange seeds on the outside get caught in my teeth. I make myself finish the berry before nodding to the woman, "I'll take a basket of these and those tubers."
     "What do you have to trade?"
The sun is setting. Navigating the unfamiliar city during the day has been confusing enough, I do not want to be out at night, even if both moons are full, "Beads, from Uchon."
     The woman's eyes are wide when I pull six beads from my leather pouch on my belt.
     "Beads, or an old knife."
     "Both?" My tail bumps into someone passing by behind me so I reign it back in. I look at the woman who's expression has not changed, "Both?"
     "Yes. You're also paying for the baskets. I made them by hand and could use a new knife."
     I sigh and remove one of my older knives with a chip I don't like and hand it and the beads to the woman, "Alright, deal."

     I begin making my way back through the market the way I entered, passing stalls I made note to remember. I'm almost to the meat filled stall near the entrance that made my mouth water. I can wait. The berries aren't that sweet. I can eat some of them tonight and some of the fat roof birds in the morning.
     "Utzi!" A voice behind me calls, loud and female, not Tura.
     I turn to see Vassa, one of Tura's guards pushing through the market crowd smiling. She is taller and more muscular than many of the men she is pushing aside.
     "Utzi! I found you! You got away! Where's Tura?"
     "Tura's at the inn. Where have you been? How did you escape Orum?"
     "Which inn? And Orum's an idiot. He followed Haret and me into the desert. We doubled back around, got behind him and came here."
     "Where's Haret?"
     "Off taking a piss or something. Which Inn is Tura at? Is she okay? Here, let me carry that for you," Vassa takes the baskets from me.
     "It's the one by the small clutch of trees near the side of town nearest the mountains."
Vassa looks at the fruit, "Don't tell me you were going to eat this too? Where's your food? You look half starved."
     "I was going to get myself something later," I think to add I always look half starved but don't.
    "Go. Get yourself something to eat. I'll take this to Tura. Meet us back at the inn." She holds both baskets with one hand and digs into a fabric pouch with the other. She hands me several colorful shiny stones. "I saw a meat vendor back there that had some sand grouse, it smelled amazing."
     "Thanks," I nod to her. "I'll meet you back at the inn."
     "Take your time," She waves as she walks away from the market. "And make sure you eat all of whatever you get. Don't spoil Tura's aura with grouse meat!"
     Gods. I'm stupid when I'm hungry. I always make mistakes when I'm hungry, but the sand grouse was delicious.

To be continued October 1st in Part 2 of "All the Best Mistakes!"

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Short Story 1 Department of Malevolent Magic Prevention

       The following short story was first written for a writing challenge on the Fantasy Faction forum back in March of this year. The theme was "The City" which I'm not sure I did well, the story is at least set in a city but I wanted to experiment with a short detective idea as well as follow the Fantasy Genre. I know what you're thinking "But Neila, you're first post for your big experimental writing blog is something you wrote back in March? I thought you were writing new things!" Well...I did but I wrote it in pen in a note book when I really should have been typing it (it would have saved my arm some pain this week) I also forgot about the holiday weekend that fell at the end of August/beginning of September. Basically, I should have set the starting date for a week from now and rather than delay more I chose to post something I already had typed then hall butt typing up what I wrote by hand.
      What am I talking about?
      Every 1st and 15th of the month I will post a short story, or portion of a short story (if it winds up being a longer piece that needs to be broken up for time's sake. Each post will be different, unless it's a part of a serialized short story. Different Genres. Different Characters. Different Tenses. Different Points of View.
      You are welcomed and encouraged to give feedback, hopefully constructive. This is a learning experiment so I can learn to be a more solid writer. Trolls will be ignored while those giving real constructive criticism will be applauded and thanked.
     Why do this on a blog and ask strangers to read my writing for feedback?
     Well, my friends are all very busy. I myself am very busy as well, but I write in my spare time when I can claw it out of the night after work. Being that as it is I often find myself concerned that I'm not giving enough attention to my writing but my 'Day Job' often takes up time into the evening and night.
     What is my day job?
     I am a freelance comic book artist. Which means I have long hours for little pay and often work until my drawing arm is swore leaving me to type with one hand or learn to write with my other hand (I am getting better at writing with my left hand, it is now readable but slow.)

     Anyway, you didn't come to hear me ramble about myself. You came to this blog to read some experimental short stories. I'm typing this at 11:41pm at night after a long holiday weekend full of visiting family and running about town with family. Thanks for taking a look, please enjoy reading (and don't steal my writing that would be a really douche-y move if you did that!) and below is the first short story post of this blog: The Department of Malevolent Magic Prevention.

Sarah "Neila" Elkins


Department of Malevolent Magic Prevention
By Sarah "Neila" Elkins

     He had a lead. It wasn't much of a lead but it was more than they'd had in weeks since the work of the Glamor Killer had made its first appearance in the city.
     Twelve victims.
     All identical.
     Not only were they identical in the manner in which they were killed (strangled by a nylon cord) , but they also looked exactly the same. It wasn't natural, which was why they had called him in instead of a regular homicide detective. Someone had used magic to force all the victims to change into copies of the same woman. He thought he could find the killer if he found the real woman he was killing proxies of.
     "Detective Samhain," the aged bartender whose face was like dry cracked leather growled, "What brings the DMMP to my bar?"
     "You know what sort of thing," The broad shouldered Detective replied as he eyed a drunk man and his Escort shamble past him.
     "I ain't sold any Hexes since you busted me months ago."
     "You sure?"
     "Damn straight I'm sure. I was only in it for the money, I'm not stupid. Besides, more money in getting idiots drunk off their ass on cheep liquor, anyway. Speaking of, " the Bartender nodded toward the tap, each handle had a different logo or photo on it, one a voluptuous woman with dark hair. "Can I interest you in a pint?"
     Samhain frowned, "I can smell the charm you cast on that fish water from here Mueller."
     The bartender laughed, "Of course you can. Is it illegal to make people think they're drunk?"
     The color drained out of Mueller's face.
     "But that's not why I'm here. I'll let it slide this time if you promise to start selling the real stuff. Casting magic like that on water will get your clientele drunk, but it comes at a cost. You'll be hit with all you cast three fold, you know that."
     The smile crept back across the old bartender's face, "You know some people go for that, right Detective?"
     Samhain pulled his smart phone out with the latest photo of one of the victims on it, "Have you seen this woman come in here?"
     "That's the woman that was on the news the other day, shame her twin sister was found dead too, right?"
     "Have you seen anyone that looked even remotely like her?"
     A light went on in the bartender's eyes, "Now that you mention it, there's a girl that comes in sometimes. Roxy, I think is her name. Mousey little thing, skinny as a twig, comes in to read and people watch, never drinks a sip. A few days ago I noticed her hair was different. Normally it's straight and red, but it was brown and curly, like your girl there. I didn't recognize her at first and she seemed scared when I mentioned it, grabbed her stuff and ran out of here like a bat out of hell."
    This could be it. A possible new victim, but why only change the hair? Was the killer casting the Glamor on his victims piecemeal? In theory it could spread out the 'Three Fold Price' for casting the magic, which could also explain why the victims still looked the same after they were killed. The killer was no ordinary Mage.
     "Any idea where Roxy went? Where she may live? Any last name?"
     The old man looked strained, "Shit...I know this...she mentioned it one time. Say, could you cast a remembrance spell on me real quick? I'd hate to think of sweet Roxy in danger, she's a good kid."
     The Detective put his phone back in his pocket, "You get off on magic being cast on you don't you?"
     "Maybe a little, but hell we both want to know where she went right? I can't for the life of me remember, but I know she mentioned it once. We used to chat when she'd come in. Try to figure things out about people that came in. Hell, she knew the booze was fake and didn't say a word."
     Samhain sighed, "Fine." He quickly figured the math on what sort of price he would have to pay for casting a remembrance spell on the old man. The old man would remember one thing for about thirty minutes, the target memory, while Samhain would forget three things for three times the length of time, ninety minutes. He would have no control over what he forgot. Was it worth it? What if he forgot what he was doing, who he was, or where he was suppose to go after the old man told him?
    "Shit, I remember, she has an apartment on Ninth street, a couple blocks from here. I offered to give her a ride home a couple months ago when the weather was shitty and she said she'd walk since it was 'just on Ninth street'. Damn it."
     Detective Samhain tried his best to not seem relieved, "Any idea which apartment complex it is?"
     "Nah, I got the feeling she didn't trust anyone. She never said more than 'apartment on ninth'. Aww damn, are you sure you don't want to cast that spell anyway? Maybe I'm forgetting something else?"
Samhain called back as he left the bar, "Nope. Clean up your act Mueller, get some real beer in here and I might take you up on that offer of a drink."
     The walk to Ninth Street from the bar was short, especially if one took the back alley that ran behind the Thai restaurant in the block between the bar and Ninth. Samhain wasn't sure Roxy would have taken that path, but it did make it a pretty straight shot to where the apartment complex was. He lucked out that there was only one. The old tower was less than authentically pleasing and stuck out like a swore thumb compared to the older shorter brownstone houses that flanked it. Together the buildings gave the appearance that the whole block was giving the neighborhood the finger. Samhain concluded that might have been the point given the general response in the city when a developer wanted to put in a new highrise apartment complex in the middle of an old neighbor hood.
     The Detective skimmed over the list of names on the buzz in board outside the Apartments. Roxy was on the 7th floor. He hit the button to ring her up and got out his badge to show her through the camera if she was home.
     "Uh....Heelll Hello?" Her voice was weak, terrified.
Samhain held up his badge and photo next to himself, "Detective
Daniel Samhain with the DMMP task force. Are you Roxy?"
     "Oh god. Oh god...You're with the Malevolent Magic Prevention Taskforce. Oh god. Please. Please come up. I need your help."
     The buzzer rang and the doors to the building unlocked. The Detective took the elevator up to Roxy's apartment. She answered the door wearing two coats, one with a hood up over her head and excessively baggy pants. Her whole body shook as she let the Detective into her apartment and then locked the door behind him. To his surprise she took out a roll of Ward Tape and strapped several lengths to the door. There were pieces on all the windows, every entrance to the apartment. Ward tape, while weak would slow down any Mage that tried to enter the room by force, and was generally only used by people incapable of casting magic because of it's corrosiveness toward magic.
     "Please, you gotta help me. I don't know what's happening. I can't go out. I look like that woman now and, and I can't. I can't end up dead. Please."
     "Slow down ma'am. I'm here to help. Please, have a seat, tell me when this started."
     She led him to the couch and recliner in the small living room of the two room apartment. Samhain sat on the recliner and noticed as Roxy sat that she was not a 'twig' in any sense of the word. Her coats failed to hide aggressive curves. He had to find this sicko and break the spells that had been cast so this woman could have her life back.
     "When did you first notice something was different?"
     "I...I was at the Bar, down on Eighth street, Mueller's place. He complemented me on my hair being different. It wasn't when I left the house that morning. I ran home. I tried shaving it off and it grew back the same."
     Samhain nodded, "Did you notice anyone out of the ordinary?"
     "No...well...there was a drunk guy with a woman I hadn't noticed before, but I was too freaked out, so no. I didn't notice anyone else."
     "Did you go to a specialist?"
     "No, I locked myself in, used my tape to seal the entrances. The changes...they kept coming though."
     The Killer wasn't casting the spells piecemeal, it was on a delay. That required a great amount of focus and a greater amount of preparation. The Glamor Killer had his sights on Roxy for a long time.
     "First it was my hair, then I grew six inches, then...they grew...huge....I just...I can't take it. I don't want anyone to see me like this. It's so gross."
     "It's going to be alright," He honestly wasn't sure, besides finding a victim he had no other leads. "We're going to find the person that did this to you, then negate the spell. You'll be back to normal in no time."
     "But...I heard the dead women didn't change back...isn't that weird? What if I don't change back?"
     A life bound Glamor? It would explain why they didn't change back, but that would mean the only way to break the spell, would be the death of the murderer. The Detective was only authorized to take a life if there was no other option.
     "OH GOD, YOU'RE HAIR!" Roxy shrieked!
     "What?" Samhain's short sandy blond hair was long, curly and brown. How did he get targeted? He should have been able to sense the magic being cast, was a little bit at a time. Moment by moment in an area already steeped with heavy magic muddling his senses. A place like the bar.
     "The...the changes come quick. Is there anything you can do? I don't want you to end up like me."
     "Shit." Samhain stood up in time to hear the door fly past his head and smash into the back wall of the apartment. Roxy shrieked again as the old bartender stepped into the room, a length of nylon boot lace in his hand.
     "Looks like I get a twofer," he growled.
     Samhain collapsed to the floor as his bones were compressed by the magic, reshaping his body, "Mueller? You sick fuck!"
     "Haha, Yeeeeeah. You were right. I do get off on magic. Casting it, seeing it's affects, feeling it's effects afterward. You know I thought you caught me for a minute. If it weren't for you I wouldn't have remembered where Roxy was at." Mueller held the boot lace taught between his worn meaty fists, "So thanks."
     Gun. Gun. Few Mages could stop a bullet, and usually it was enough to break one's concentration. Samhain struggled to reach his service pistol but it was gone. His holster was empty. He rolled onto his back, finding his cloths far too loose, like he was rolling in bed sheets. It felt as though he was being torn apart from the inside out. Mueller neared the writhing half transformed detective. The bar tender ignored Roxy, who was cowering in the corner of the room, near her T.V.
     "You wont be able to get away with killing a Detective!" Samhain shrieked, his voice a mirror of Roxy's.
     "They won't know who you were. No one will. You'll just be another of those busty bitches they find in the city from time to time with a terminal case of Dead."
     Roxy fired the Detective's handgun into Mueller, a bullet caught him in the chest, another in the shoulder and the final shot hit him in the skull. He collapsed to the floor next to the Detective. Then the magic cast by the Glamor Killer started to unravel. Violently.
     The Detective was thankful that it was quick, painful but quick. After twenty minutes of dry heaving near Roxy's coffee table, with Roxy on the other side of the room doing the same he managed to stand. Ten fingers, toes, cloths fit right, voice, "Roxy..." deep and manly. Good.
     "I had to...He was going to kill you."
     "He was."
     Detective Samhain was not looking forward to writing the report on this one.