Authors: Chrystalla Thoma
Three short fantasy stories set in different worlds of magic
by Chrystalla Thoma
Copyright 2012 by Chrystalla Thoma
Indra returns from exile with one purpose: to take revenge on the Elven King for sending him away. But in a game where nobody is who and what they seem, Indra will find that discovering the truth might be crueler than living a lie.
Short epic fantasy story – 3561 words.
World of Shells
When Aima doesn’t returned by nightfall, Jun sets out to find her. But the
is a dangerous place when light fades. Weaving his way between giant lizards, aggressive clan members and hungry birds
prey, he will either save Aima, or die trying.
Short epic fantasy story – 3960 words.
The Wolf Game
In a world where the undead rule, and shape-shifters are owned and kept by mortals, Mara, a shadow woman, acts as a guard for Riffa, a ghoul. When a white werewolf saves Mara in a fight, a bond forms between them. But while Mara wonders what this werewolf wants from her, she has to wonder about her own desires.
Short urban fantasy story – 5365 words.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, events, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
by Chrystalla Thoma
First published in Mirrordance Magazine, Spring issue 2011. Revised version.
eyond the sea of Bara lay the land of exiles – human and troll cities, merchant harbors, thieves and whores. I was supposed to be there, leading a life of nostalgia and pain, languishing in Queen Syrana’s memory.
But here I stood, well within the forbidden borders – forbidden only to me – of the human-elf coalition, polishing the tables of this accursed inn with a wet rag, and glaring at the hooded human about to grab my hip –
I slapped his hand away, and struggled not to punch him. That would be a man’s reaction, not a woman’s, and I had to keep my disguise. “Did you want something?”
“What’s a pretty wench like you,” his voice slurred, “doing in this godsforgotten place?”
. I finished redistributing the dirt on the table surface – filthy human race – while I thought about the question, keeping one eye on his wandering hands. Only a fool would come back against the elven King’s wishes, as I had. But I had sworn on Melekarth’s name to revenge Syrana’s death, and I had a plan.
If you could call it that. It was more of a purpose, a desire, an urge. A burning need that sustained me, kept me alive.
“My name’s Jonder. What’s yours?” He sounded like an old man, his voice rusty and shaking. He made another pass, at my waist this time, and missed. “Hey. I’m talking to you. I asked you yer name, wench.”
I sighed. “Indra. My name is Indra.” I’d found out the hard way that not answering only made them more persistent. Then again, using my true name helped me remember who I was. “Now let me work.”
The inn stank of sweat, sour ale and stale breath, but it was no worse than others I had frequented. I had worked my way from the harbor to this very spot, inn after stinking inn, insult upon insult.
My rage was contained like lightning in a glass, my magic buried so deep it gnawed at my guts. I disguised my gender with my clothes, half-hid my ears under my long hair, and hoped nobody became too curious or too suspicious. Maybe I would get lucky for once.
“So slender for a wench.” Jonder grasped a handful of my skirt and to my dread it began ripping at the seams. I grabbed his hand. “And what is that silver tattoo on your arm?” He cocked his head to the side.
I twisted out of his reach and checked my skirt. It would hold a while longer. I picked up the jug and poured him some more warm ale. That usually distracted them. “Just the brand of my previous master. Here, drink. Anything else I can get you?”
He leaned over the table. “That master of yours, he the one who taught you to talk all proper? If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were high-born, some lady raised in a palace. A princess.” He cackled.
A chill shook me. The fear of being discovered jolted my magic, burning and seething, up my chest and arms. I fought it back down, to the safe place inside my body.
. I thought I blended in. My fault, for talking so much. No more talking from now on, not till I attained my goal.
So I just nodded.
The man raised his head. Under the hood, over the salt-and-pepper beard, his eyes glinted like polished black obsidian, Syrana’s favorite stone. He was not a dwarf, not an elf, but suddenly I doubted he was human.
“Did you know, lass, that the elven King is passing through here?” he asked.
I fought to hide a gasp. I shoved off the table, schooling my face. “Is he?”
“You don’t seem surprised.”
“Of course I am.” I was. How did Jonder know? I wiped my sweaty palms on my skirt.
“Well, they say he’s on his way to the Forest of Ydes. There’s great magic and power there. But why would the elven King need more power? He hasn’t come this way in hundreds of years.”
Why was Jonder watching me like that, as if he could see through me? And why was he telling me all this? I shook my head, letting my hair fall over my face and cover my expression. Maybe it was some old ritual King Esh had revived. Even though I was of the royal line, I had never aspired to the throne, never thought about all it entailed. Perhaps elven Kings had to visit the magical forest, pay their dues.
All I cared about was that King Esh was coming here, into my waiting arms. My blade was thirsty.
Jonder focused his attention on his ale. Turning my back, I resumed work. I did my round of the tables, carried trays with bowls of stew and chunks of bread and ale in clay jugs. I kept busy, kept my mind empty of fear.
The men grabbed at my ass, missed when I twisted and turned, shouted about all the things they wanted to do to me, vile, unheard of practices. I longed to give them pain, make them beg for mercy, shut their mouths at long last, and stop their taunting. I was weary, and sorrow weighed heavy on my heart, ever since the day Syrana died. Syrana the beautiful, who had been betrothed to the King of Fairy, Syrana, my lover.
The drakes killed her on her wedding day, and so killed my heart in one stroke.
I’d destroy the drakes, kill them to the last.
I slipped between the men’s arms like water, avoiding grasping hands and booted feet laid out to make me trip. I sidestepped them without really looking; I served food and poured ale, my mind whirling.
As I turned to wipe another table down, shiny metal flashed. A big knife tumbled across my path.
I flinched but snatched it in midair by its gem-encrusted hilt. I raised it, my pulse soaring. How the light played on the polished blade. I had not held a weapon since I left the Fairy Court.
I laid it flat on the table. “You dropped this,” I said.
“Not a bad move for a dainty lass. Not bad at all,” Jonder said in a voice devoid of emotion.
I blinked and took a step back. My breath came out in a hiss.
Jonder grinned. His teeth were strong and white, not an old man’s teeth at all.
“Who are you? What do you want?” I asked, my mind frozen.
“I want the same as you.”
I backed away, but my legs tangled in my skirts, and I fell in an ungraceful heap. How did women walk in the accursed things? Swearing, I hauled myself to my knees, using the bench for support. He loomed over me, a dark shadow, the long knife gripped in one gnarled hand.
The human men gathered to watch this new game, their beards waving over me like banners in a country fair.
“Leave me alone,” I said again, forcing my jaw to unclench, trying to sound nonchalant. “I told you, I just work here, and I do not—I don’t know what you mean or what you want.”
“Really.” It was not a question. Jonder raised the knife and I cowered before the cold iron blade. He avoided my flesh, though, instead choosing to run the tip over my bodice, never on bare skin, as if he knew the effect that particular metal would have on me. “What do you hide under these long skirts, wench, I wonder.”
The men laughed, a raucous sound, they clapped and cheered. If only they knew. I clamped my legs together. Just how bad could this evening get?
Shouts rang from the door and I turned, trying to see something, but the burly bodies of the bystanders blocked my view. At least their attention was off me now; even Jonder moved away, his blade glinting in the torchlight.
“The elven King is here!”
Oh, Melekarth, already, tonight?
Joy, effervescence, anger, rage, sorrow. I schooled my face, my thoughts.
Keeping a hand on the bench for balance, I rose and smoothed my skirts. My fingers sought my silver weapon tattoo. I traced the symbols, inserted my fingertips and pulled the dagger out of my flesh. The blade slipped out, making me shiver with delight, and I held it out – a knife like a sliver of light, slim enough to throw.
But maybe, hopefully, I would get a chance to get closer.
King Esh had yet to appear, but his power slithered inside the inn, coating the walls and floor, growing like a vine. The benches and tables rattled, the goblets revolved madly, the leftover food bubbled inside the cracked bowls.
The Glamour spread in violent, widening circles. It slammed against my skin, and pierced me until I thought it would draw blood. I kept from breathing, from allowing my power to even twitch, petting it like a big, savage cat until it purred, vibrating inside my body. I didn’t use Glamour for a reason, and now it was more important than ever to avoid using it. I didn’t want the elven King to know I was here. I didn’t want anyone to know.
The crowd in the inn stood or sat, frozen in place, eyes wide, mouths hanging open. Whispers rushed on the air, urgent mutterings.
The Fairy Court rarely passed through the humans’ lands, even less often since the drake attack on the wedding feast and the death of the bride, a death King Esh had allowed, had failed to stop.
. She’d had to marry Esh. But she had loved me.
Following on the tail of his power, King Esh came though the door. The moment he entered, a collective gasp went through the small crowd. Music of flutes and strings twirled on the air currents, and the King raised his dark head with the tall crown of silver. His pale eyes held everyone in thrall; the humans bowed and scraped and parted to let him through.
I curtsied, to keep my disguise. It wouldn’t do to bow, though I itched to do so. I longed to be myself once more, to stop pretending.
The King threw one end of his white mantle over one shoulder; crystals sparkled in his hair, a diamond drop rested on his high forehead.
Without the use of my Glamour, I was affected by the King’s, like a mere human. His face was a beacon, snaring my gaze; his every movement caught my breath. The magic swirled around him, clung to him like viscous, scented oil, distorting the surface, imbuing everything with a faint glow.
I licked my lips, swallowed my speeding pulse.
Stay, my heart; do not leap
On silent feet, I circled the humans who stood like statues frozen in a dance, some kneeling now, some bowing, arms outstretched to touch and feel. I hid behind their still forms, just as the King’s entourage walked into the inn.
Elven princes, dressed in pale velvet, peacock wings on their backs, long dark hair draped like mantles over their tall bodies as they sidled after King Esh.
Elven princesses in blue silk and satin, their flaxen hair so long it hung to the ground, woven with pearls and feathers. They stifled laughter behind their white, narrow hands, and shook their heads so that stardust fluttered to the floor. White foxes and weasels followed them; white ravens sat on their heads like crowns, and balanced with spread wings, crowing.
My chest ached. I thought I had overcome the nostalgia, that I was well guarded from the pain this sight brought – but I was wrong. I looked down at my feet, my dirty clogs peeking under my grey, stained dress, and I longed once more for fairy beauty beyond human understanding, beyond imagining, for the heart-rending allure of fae.
But one cannot go back. Time can only roll forward, even for me.
Determined, I held the dagger at my side, still hidden behind the wall of human bodies, all possible outcomes crowding my mind.
The King headed to the long table near the hearth, his long mantle dragging on the floor. His fairy courtiers flicked their fingers, sending waves of Glamour to shove the sluggish humans off the bench and to the floor. The elves stepped over the humans’ bodies, shoved them lightly with their pointy shoes as they passed, rolled them over like pet animals.
The King took his seat at the table’s head. I weighed the advantages of facing him, but then I shook my head. No, better keep up the disguise longer, go from behind, yes, like a coward – but I had underestimated the King’s power before, and look what happened to me. Stripped of my privileges, without a trial or reason, I’d been evicted from the Fairy Court and exiled, never meant to return.
No, this time I would kill him.
A hand clamped on my shoulder, another found my mouth and stopped my startled whimper. “Don’t move, wench.”
. I struggled, but could not sway him. Then splinters of raw magic pierced my skin and I gasped against the saltiness of his hand. That was no fairy magic, but I could not quite place it. Magic dark and cold, sharp like a fang where it touched me. What was he? I had never felt anything like it. When I slumped in his arms, he allowed me to turn and see his face.
I fought to escape his hold.
A drake, a dragon-human spawn
. His kind was our nightmare, our terror in the long nights.
He watched me with a faint smile, the scales on his cheeks gleaming white and iridescent like mother-of-pearl. He released me in a slow movement and drew back his hood, revealing short horns on a head covered not in hair but bare blue skin. Iron hoops hung from his ears.
Drakes and their love of iron, both our bane.
He grabbed my hand and I gulped. “Easy now,” he said, pulling his hood back on, hiding his true nature. “Are you going to kill your King, elf? How did he wrong you?” He raised his iron knife and I staggered back.