Entries tagged with “flash”.

He should never have been fighting like this.

Fighting, yes. Charr were born to a life of fighting, and he’d taken to it well – in his own way. But his own way was not this way. A crush like this was where the Blood Legion belonged. Just get right in there and hack at the enemy – they loved that. And with the ghosts flocking all around them, thick as morning fog, there were certainly a lot of enemies to hack at.


The main Audience Chamber was a piece of engineering of a kind with the great cavern of Aynithral, if on a smaller scale. In its tiered galleries, a thousand people and more could gather to watch the proceedings. The main body of the chamber could hold hundreds more in procession, without even setting foot on the broad dais that held the throne. That in turn could hold a retinue of a few dozen on its lower tier, and another half-dozen around the throne itself.

It was the site where all royal proclamations of Jisani were read. From this very cavern, he’d sent Dren to the deep vaults. Many an uncomfortable hour had been spent on that unyielding seat.


The moment the door closed, it sank in just how much more of a home the Hall of Healing had become than the Deep ever had. Perhaps the appointments weren’t quite so sumptuous, definitely not so spacious, and the food was much simpler fare, but he felt safe there. For the past few years especially, the Deep had kept him in a state ranging from anxiety to active terror.

Jisarr sagged against the door with a sigh of relief.

Rima looked from one of them to the other. “Aynithral’s market may be the most hectic place I’ve seen, but the both of you look rather too wrung for even that.”

“The market, averting a bloody riot, and interrogation by a rather prickly general. That’s enough to leave anybody feeling wrung,” Tavi put in. “I think I need a drink, and I’m strongly considering getting you one on healer’s orders.” With that parting word to Jisarr, she disappeared deeper into the building.


Tavi was indeed supportive of the notion, and did indeed have a contribution toward it, but she also had a caution: it wasn’t going to be as simple as just walking out the door and going to market.

“Firstly,” she said, “you are still in my care, and not just for healing. It’s absurd, but for the moment, that lot hold power, and it would not be wise to simply ignore them. Second, it would be best if you avoid drawing too much attention to yourself. Unfortunately for us, you are rather conspicuous.”

“Oh, curses. I should have thought of that,” Rima muttered. “I’ve never seen black fur outside the royal family and its close relatives.”

“Even the Dukes don’t have that,” Tavi confirmed. “And while I don’t know how people would react to seeing you in the public plazas, I can only imagine that it would hamper your plans, one way or another.”


Autumn was a hard time to be a working pegasus in Horseshoe Corners. While summer mostly called for clear days with just enough rain to keep crops growing well, in autumn things were more complicated. First, the pegasi needed to stir up a lot more wind to keep things properly cool. Rain was just as important – letting crops dry out just before harvest-time would be disastrous. But rain at the wrong time would be bad, too; the fields couldn’t be too wet for the farmers to harvest them. So all the pegasi were worked to the wingbones to move clouds into place when it was time for rain, make sure they rained properly, and then shoo them off over the surrounding hills when enough had fallen on the fields.

And somepony needed to be sure all of it was happening at the right times – and in Horseshoe Corners, somepony meant Stormchaser.


“She wasn’t pleased that I chose to bring it up,” Rima said, pushing the door shut. “However, with that already done and well-received, she is in favour of going ahead with it.”

“So what will ‘it’ entail?” Jisarr asked. “I don’t know how much of it I’ll be able to understand, but I am curious.” He was sitting on the cushioned seat he’d used for reading, now placed in the middle of the room rather than at the wall.


It was a bizarre mix of new and familiar. Kob had never set foot in this inn before, yet it was just like others he’d been in – comfortably warm, dimly-lit by candles under tinted glass globes at each table, the furnishings plush and well-carved rather than the ramshackle benches and trestle tables at most common inns. The bartop was gleaming, polished mahogany; the patrons held quiet conversations under the strains of the bard’s lute and her soft singing.

Rather than being a place for the masses to come for a decent and affordable meal, this was a place where people of means could conduct discreet business – and in any big city, there was some business that was discreet by nature. Practitioners of the sort Kob had sought out knew of each other; even across sea and desert, the token of the Silver Serpent of Sharktooth Bay carried some weight, when its bearer knew the right names. And while Kob had never acquired a taste for ostentation, he’d long since passed the point where a meal at a place like this was an expense worth noting; he could afford the polite measure of treating his contact to a good meal.


Hakenteri had used every curse word he knew in four different languages and was starting over. It took a while – partly because the gryphon was cursing under his breath as he flew, rather than with full dedication, but mostly because one didn’t spend five years in active service with the Highmoor Legions, and more time beyond that in training, without picking up some of the essential skills.

False leads, inaccuracies, late arrivals, missing details – nobody had ever told him that serving as the Legion’s eyes and ears in other lands would be easy, but this was getting downright ridiculous.

The place he’d left behind with the first of those muttered curses was the eighth he’d investigated since starting this particular mission. It was supposed to have been as straightforward as a spy-courier’s duties ever got – get in, meet the contact, hear the report, confirm it, get home. And that would have been that; the five years he’d sworn to serve would be done and he could move on to civilian life. Which, unlike most of his kind, he had serious prospects for; he’d had no intention of re-enlisting.

That had been at the start of spring. It was the height of summer, now.

Hakenteri didn’t begrudge the extra time – truly. It would have been nice to be done months ago as expected, but he’d had no intention of leaving a task unfinished. The real problem was that this particular task seemed tailored for maximum frustration.


Before the first word was written, the Red Lady was there to watch over the land.

Through the ages She had kept Her vigil unbroken, guarding Her people from those that dwelt beyond the world. She taught the ways of battle to the first wardens, that they may stand guard against the dangers of this world even as She did against those of others, with the stern counsel that to use Her arts to take that which was not theirs would be to break Her covenant. The land was bountiful, and there was plenty in it to provide for all Her people.

From time to time, horrors from beyond the world tried to sneak past Her vigilance and take plunder. She never wavered in Her watch; always She was there, and the people would marvel as She did battle in the sky or among the waves or astride the rolling plains, sometimes battling hosts of unquiet dead, or restless spirits of the elements, or other things too bizarre to name or even describe, striking with bow or spear, turning blows on a buckler carved from the first tree ever felled.


Hakenteri drifted on the edge of an uneasy doze, awash in a dull ache of pain.

He’d have been happy never to know how much of an improvement that could be. But improvement it was over how he’d been, what felt like mere moments ago but in truth was much of a day. When he’d been brought into this little den, he’d been exhausted, half-starved, and in genuine agony – from first the burns, then the arrow through his right wing, then all too many broken bones and a host of lesser bruises from when he’d hit the ground.

That had been bad. He’d barely been aware of anything but the pain, hadn’t known that healers were at hand until the pain had faded into merciful oblivion; at that point, he’d succumbed to his fatigue and sunk into oblivion as well.


For the dedicated administrator, there was always something to do.

Privately, Shiezma Vlande knew that an administrator was what she was, at heart. She delighted in making things happen, things that no one person could ever have accomplished alone. She took joy in efficiency. The politics of the Legeriat were mostly a distraction to her; at best they could show her where things needed to be done better, but more often they were in the way.

Still, if she wasn’t ideally suited to a Legeriator’s mantle, it was the post she held, and she wore it better than some of her colleagues did. And some aspects of it did appeal to her; enough to bring her to the Red Chamber even today, when no council was scheduled, to do some research and make plans. Truth be told, it was actually kind of restful, getting the chance to do this work without a whole muddle of politicians pestering her and getting in her way.

Which made it that much more of a surprise when the door creaked open and admitted another person. And all the more so when that person was not one of her oh-so-esteemed fellow Legeriators at all, but a short Orren man whose fine, dark robes made for sharp contrast against his pure-white fur and ice-blue eyes.


In a land much-marked by canyons and cliffs, the Godswatch Heights were the greatest rise of all. The main Temple of Caarok perched up there, a short way back from the cliff’s edge, hence the name. It wasn’t the grandest temple – that title belonged to the Temple of the Three, at the heart of the city below. But it was plenty grand, and it was there that Caarok Himself spent most of His incarnate existence. To scale the cliffs was the last step on a pilgrim’s path to seek audience with Him and possibly enter His personal service. It was a harrowing climb, a test of skill and resolve, but it was one that could be done.

Kalim knew all this – most people did, who knew much of anything about the Three. It was one thing, though, to know a collection of truths. It was quite another to be standing at the foot of the Godswatch Heights, to see them stretching up, it seemed, to the scant clouds in the lightening sky. Here, it was not so easy to remember that people had made the climb successfully; much easier to recall those that had failed – especially those that had fallen from the cliff face and met their end. There had certainly been a number of such.

Up to this moment, Kalim had thought himself ready. He was athletic – strong, agile, and limber. He had been climbing things since he was a boy, much to his mother’s despair, and after the first year and a few tumbles from smallish trees, he’d not fallen. Not even when he’d moved on to mighty ancient trees and then, indeed, cliffs. He was a good climber.

And yet he was fairly certain that most who’d tried and failed had thought themselves good climbers as well. This wasn’t a tree in his family’s yard; this was the highest, craggiest cliff in the land. No other challenge he’d faced could be its equal. How could he say for certain that they’d all prepared him for this?


It had all been going so well.

They’d got in with nobody the wiser. With physical access, Jessen had been able to break into their network without breaking a sweat, and she’d made a few careful gaps in security that let them all move to the deeper levels of the complex, down to the laboratory area. Then she’d cracked that network and pulled the research and development data. It had taken Navik several anxious minutes to sort through it all and narrow it down to what they wanted – testing data and plans for the ten-kilo package that now rested in his pack. It should have had an explosion-resistant crate and full NBC hazard sealing, but so long as it didn’t go off, all that wouldn’t be an issue; so for now, the shock-proof case the device now rested in would have to do.

These people hadn’t been setting out to make a weapon, but that was hardly reassuring; once they’d seen the potential of this little thing, they’d turned it into a terrifyingly effective weapon indeed. And knowing what they had planned for it, it was all the more important that Navik’s team get the prototype out of their hands and the plans back to Central Command.


The battle had settled into an elaborate, deadly dance.

They’d been at this for hours; both sides had taken losses, and it was small comfort to Darin Krell that “only” two on his side hadn’t disgorged active emergency beacons for search-and-rescue teams to retrieve. That was still two pilots he wouldn’t see at debriefing, assuming he got that far. Two families now missing loved ones. With the battlespace still too hostile for SAR to actually get in there, there was plenty of opportunity for that number to get worse, one way or another.

And that was just this particular engagement. Skirmishes had been going on for three days now, with no decisive changes on either side; either group could get reinforced anytime, but nobody had yet.

Nobody wanted more casualties, at this point. They spent most of their time outside direct engagement range and conserved their dwindling missile stocks. Even when the two forces came close together, everybody was more worried about staying alive than scoring hits, and that went for both sides.

Unfortunately, fatigue was setting in. Tired people slipped up, and when the stakes were this high, even a tiny slip could be fatal.


For the few minutes it took to walk back to his apartment, Damien Collier kept half-expecting the wolf next to him to disappear – to turn out to have never have been there after all; just a daydream, a figment of an overactive imagination.

Seriously, what were the odds? Naomi Peltier had been his great high school sweetheart – maybe not the first girl he’d dated, but the first one he’d really clicked with. They’d given each other their virginity – anxious to do it right, he’d studied up, thanks in large part to a guide he’d found online that had been targeted at curious teens and somehow not been shut down for “providing pornography to minors;” he thought it had gone okay, a positive experience for both of them, even if it had involved more giggling than actual passion. That had come later, as they got used to each other, and they’d had it in spades. Neither of them had been plagued by the jealousy that seemed to break apart so many of their fellow dating students. They’d compared notes about their attractive peers; Damien rather suspected that Naomi had a touch of the bi, too, whether or not it was enough to actually act on like his had turned out to be.

Then, with their passion still burning ever-brighter, he’d been dragged across the country by Dad’s promotion. He hadn’t had any means of contact that wouldn’t be lost in the move; she’d given him her email – but apparently her family had recently changed providers and she’d given him the old one. All he got in response to his “here I am” mail had been a bounce. He’d got permission for a long-distance call, only for that to be a wrong number. And with Naomi’s dad a teacher who’d rather not be pestered in off-hours by random students – or the irate parents of same – their number wasn’t in the phone book.

That had been hard. He’d tried not to show it to anyone, but suddenly being without even that distant connection to her had left him reeling and off balance. School had been a struggle; teachers and parents alike had chalked it up to just getting used to the different expectations of a new school, but the truth was that for a little, he just couldn’t be bothered to care enough to put in his best work.