Guest Flash Fiction by Fantasy Author Jennifer Silverwood

*First appeared on We Write Fantasy. Reposted with permission.

Read more of Jennifer’s writings at her website – https://jennifersilverwood.com/.

***

Mama first told her about the magic in trees after Papa disappeared in the flood.
“Listen good, Lou,” she had whispered, “the tree’s memory is longest. They got roots dug deep in that old earth. Water washes us away but the trees remember.”
There was no headstone for Papa, just a tree Mama carved his Christian name into.
CONRAD LAFAYETTE MASON
Sap bled over the letters often.
“See the tears the trees shed for your Papa?” Mama had said.
Lou took her papa’s knife to the bark, carefully carving Papa’s name over and over.
She marked moments in her life under that tree.
Carving Papa’s name with their dog, Rusty licking her tears away.
Carving Papa’s name again with her first boyfriend pressing kisses down her neck.
Sometimes, when she was alone, Lou swore the tree whispered with her father’s voice.

They buried Mama under that tree years later, adding her name in strong block letters under Papa’s.
LETTIE WOOD MASON
A new dog and boyfriend stood by her side as she insisted on carving Mama’s name.
“The trees remember best,” she whispered to the boyfriend, to the dog and the wind whispering through the branches with Mama’s voice.
The family thought it unhealthy she took so many trips back to the old farmhouse alone. They wanted her to bring her boyfriend. But she couldn’t bring him and hear Papa and Mama’s voices.
She brought her dog instead, for the family’s peace of mind. The tree liked her dog.
“I won’t forget,” she promised the aged bark, cheek pressed to the freshly carved names of her parents.

Years passed, adding wrinkles and gray hair to hear head. Her children accepted her need to visit “the tree” as they called it, though none understood “Mama’s obsession.”
She laughed with the tree about her silly children.
“They worry I’m getting on in years, too old to come up here alone. Too feeble to use a knife.” Her cackle sounded brittle.
The wind whispered back Papa’s hearty chuckle with Mama’s sing-song gale.
When Lou pressed her ear against the tree, she listened to the creaks and groans that seemed to promise, “Soon.”
Lou smiled, agreeing, “Soon.”
Death didn’t frighten her like it frightened her children and grandchildren.
In those final weeks with sickness eating away her limbs, she often told them, “Time turns us all to dust, but the trees remember. When I’m gone, listen for me by the tree.”

Her children buried Lou beside her mother, beneath the tree she had loved so much.
They carved her name in strong block letters, just like she had wanted.
LOUISE MASON BIRCH
They took turns each month, visiting Mama’s grave and carving over her name.
The tree cried tears of sap along with them.
The wind often whispered with her voice, “Remember.”
So they did.

****

I love this so much, and hope you did, too. Jen is a fabulous writer and such an awesome person. Read more of her writings at her website – https://jennifersilverwood.com/.

Thanks for letting me share, Jen!

Flash Fiction Friday #10: “Bright as Stars”

What is flash fiction? It’s an itty bitty story, generally under 1,000 words or 3 printed pages. Fresh fantasy and sci fi flash fiction every Friday!

*Please pardon grammar whoopsies. They will be fixed when this story is published in a collection later this year.

“Bright as Stars”

A Fantasy Flash Fiction

By

K. D. Jones

 

“You must hurry, my dear!” said the old wizard, clutching the young starling’s hands. “Tonight is the night. You must release your power into the sky, or you will turn into stardust.”

“Stardusting” was what her friends called it. She’d seen her sister turn into stardust because she couldn’t release the Light in time. The loss of her sister ached deep within her, but she couldn’t focus on her pain now. She had to release her gift.

She let the old man usher her up the stairs of the palace. “Why do the royals keep starlings?” she asked as their footsteps echoed off the cold stone walls.

“Because your Light is precious. It lights up the night sky with beauty and wonder. Otherwise, we would have nothing but darkest night, stretching on forever. New starlings are needed once the Light burns out up above.”

“Why do I even have this gift if my fate is to give it away?”

“Why do flamecasters bear flames? Or watermancers create water? Why do wizards shepherd all the magical children? Everyone has a purpose, my dear. Now hurry.”

Up and up they climbed. Already dizzy, the girl didn’t dare look down. Her sister was afraid of heights. That’s what did her in—she couldn’t make the climb. She would not—could not—be her sister. Her mother and father wouldn’t survive the loss of two children.

Out they burst through a wooden door and onto the rooftop terrace. Bright yellow flags rippled on the night wind, and the moon cast a silvery glow on the crests of waves in the surrounding moat.

The girl looked up, straight up. So many stars! So many had released their gifts—or became stars themselves. Was her sister watching her right now? Was she proud of what she was about to do?

Sparkling white light began to build in the girl’s hands. She lifted them as her blood began to thrum.

“Now, child!” hissed the wizard.

Unsure what she was supposed to do but trusting instinct, the girl thrust her hands up. Light shot from her fingertips, and she cried out at the joy and the pain. It bolted into the sky, ricocheting off clouds and moonbeams until at last settling into thousands of tiny drops of glittering starlight.

Weary but grateful to be relieved of her gift, the girl stumbled.

The wizard caught her. “Well done, my child.” He stroked her hair. “You’ve done this kingdom a great service. All those people below—” with his staff, he gestured out at the twinkling city below—“will be so glad you were selfless enough to brighten their days.”

“Yes,” she murmured, her eyes growing heavier. “Selfless. I’m thankful to share my gift with others.”

She drifted off to sleep, seeing her sister smiling down at her, the pride and affection in her gaze shining bright as stars.

Flash Fiction Friday #9: “Dreams of Gold”

What is flash fiction? It’s an itty bitty story, generally under 1,000 words or 3 printed pages. Fresh fantasy and sci fi flash fiction every Friday!

*Please pardon grammar whoopsies. They will be fixed when this story is published in a collection later this year.

“Dreams of Gold”

A Fantasy Flash Fiction

By

K. D. Jones

 

The duchess couldn’t remember why she’d entered the trinket shop, except that something gold and shiny had caught her eye from the window. Again.

She could hear her husband now. “You spend all our money on jewelry!”

“I have to have it!” she’d whine. “Life’s not the same without the shiny.”

“Hello!” said the girl behind the counter, dropping a curtsy. “Looking for something in particular?”

“Oh, I’m just browsing. Don’t mind me.”

“Sure, my lady,” said the girl, with a knowing smile.

The duchess browsed the wares, silver rings laden with gems, sparkling earrings big as her palm, and necklaces made of ribbons and crystals. It was all so magical and wonderful!

“Do you have anything in here that will grant wishes?” the duchess asked suddenly. She’d never owned a piece of magical jewelry before. She should add that to her collection, flesh it out a bit more.

A haunted look came over the girl’s face. She pressed her lips together.

The duchess eyed her shrewdly. “You do have something—I can see it in your eyes. Come on, out with it.”

“I—it’s not for everybody.”

“I’m not just everybody. I am a duchess.”

“I can see that, my lady. I just don’t think you would want this particular item.”

“Clearly, if I didn’t want it I wouldn’t have asked for it! Bring it out.”

Resigned, the girl ducked her head and went to the back to fetch said magical item. She returned with a small black box.

“If I give this to you, all your dreams will come true.”

“Well, that sounds fantastic!”

“No, you don’t understand. The ring pays no mind to how your dreams come true. Anything can happen.”

“Oh, what could possibly be so bad about that? How much do you want for it?”

“It’s priceless.”

“Nothing comes without a price. Name yours.”

The girl bit her lip. “I will give this to you, freely, if you promise never again to return to my shop.”

The duchess eyed her suspiciously. “That’s an odd request. Let’s see this magical ring.”

The girl opened the box. Light shone faintly from a simple ruby set in a band of burnished gold. The gem seemed to pulse and call to her, beckoning her to pick it up and put it on. Mesmerized, the duchess started to reach for it.

The lid slammed shut. “Promise me,” snapped the girl.

Taken aback, the duchess blinked several times. “Dear girl, I promise.”

“Good.” The girl shoved the box into the duchesses’ hands before she’d barely finished speaking. “Now, please, take your leave.” Without another word, she turned away.

“Well, how rude!” said the duchess. But she couldn’t complain too much. She’d gotten a free ring! Exactly what she’d come in here for!” Was it odd she’d seen the box on display in the window, or thought she had, and yet the girl had retrieved it from the back? Maybe she had seen a similar item. Jewelers tended to copy each other, after all, once a piece became famous and started to sell.

After arriving at home, she put the ring on and made a wish. “I wish to be able to buy as much jewelry as I want!”

That night at dinner, the duke choked on a piece of steak and died right there, face-down in his plate. The duchess, distressed at suddenly becoming a widow, fretted and fussed over him, but alas he was gone.

The next day, she found out she was to inherit his fortune. “But I don’t want that!” she whined to the handler of their estate. “I want my husband back!”

The day after that, she found out her father, mother, and siblings died in a tragic fire, leaving her the family fortune.

“You are wealthy beyond dreams, my lady,” said the estate planner. “You are able to afford anything you wish—including as much of your beloved jewelry as you want.”

“But I didn’t wish for this!”

“Did you not?” asked the planner.

She blinked at him. “Who are you, really?”

His eyes glowed faintly red, and he smiled, looking at the ring on her hand. “I am the granter of wishes. Not all genies come in lamps.”

With that, he vanished in a plume of smoke, leaving the duchess alone with her ring and a great big empty house.

 

Flash Fiction Friday #8: “Purple Rain”

I know it’s not Friday, but I owe three flash fictions because I’ve been traveling and have had a lot on my plate. This one is less fantasy and more straight fiction, but it was still fun and cute to write. I hope you enjoy it!

What is flash fiction? It’s an itty bitty story, generally under 1,000 words or 3 printed pages. Fresh fantasy and sci fi flash fiction every Friday!

*Please pardon grammar whoopsies. They will be fixed when this story is published in a collection later this year.

“Purple Rain”

A Fantasy Flash Fiction

By

K. D. Jones

 

The little girl cupped her palms together as it began to rain. “Why is the rain clear, Mother?”

“Because that’s just the way it is,” she said matter-of-factly, fishing through her bag for her umbrella. “Put your hood up before you get wet.”

“I don’t mind if I get wet. I can always dry off.”

The next day it rained again, except this time the little girl was visiting at her grandpa’s. “Grandpa,” she said, “why is the rain clear?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know, little one. It’s just the way it is.”

Dissatisfied, the girl frowned but said no more.

One week later, it rained again. This time the girl was in a carriage with her father, rumbling along a gravel road. Removing her glove, she stuck her hand out the window and said, “Father, why is the rain clear?”

“Because it just is,” he said, skimming over the morning paper.

“But I want the rain to be purple.”

“Such a thing is impossible, dear.”

“Why?”

“It just is.”

Why couldn’t the rain be other colors? She loved rain, and she loved the color purple. She wanted the rain to be purple! There had to be some way to make her dream come true.

The following week, she returned to her manor. She was sitting in painting class when it began to rain. Their teacher walked around, commenting on her students’ work. She stopped by the girl’s easel. “You’ve painted purple rain.”

“It’s the only way I can make the rain purple. To dream about it. Everybody else tells me it’s impossible.”

The teacher grinned. “Nothing is impossible.”

The next painting class, it was raining again. Only this time, the teacher had her students meet her outside. Half of them met on the roof while the other half stood on the ground far below, including the little girl. The teacher had instructed them to wear something they didn’t mind getting a little bit dirty.

The little girl wore her normal clothes, because she figured she could always wash them. She wasn’t afraid of hard work and rather enjoyed it.

“Are you ready?” the teacher called, leaning over the side of the building.

“Ready for what?” called back the little girl.

“For purple rain!” The teacher grinned from ear to ear as she positioned a wooden beam contraption with many little holes in it along the side of the roof. Once it was in place, she instructed two of her students to take a large bucket and slowly dump it into the contraption.

They did as she said. Tiny, dark raindrops sputtered out of the contraption, falling, falling, falling—

The little girl cupped her hands.

The water was purple.

Her face lighting up with glee, she threw the purple rain in the air and danced in it with her friends. When they all got back to class, soaked to the bone but happy and free, the teacher handed each of them a dry towel. “What was the moral of today’s demonstration?” she asked the class.

Small hands shot up.

“We can paint the rain!”

“That the rain can be multiple colors!”

“Yes, it was all those things. But what else?”

The little girl raised her hands, smiling. She now knew the secret. “That the impossible can be possible.”

“Yes, little one. That is exactly it.”

Flash Fiction Friday #7: “Moon-Kissed”

What is flash fiction? It’s an itty bitty story, generally under 1,000 words or 3 printed pages. Fresh fantasy and sci fi flash fiction every Friday!

*Please pardon grammar whoopsies. They will be fixed when this story is published in a collection later this year.

“Moon-Kissed”

A Fantasy Flash Fiction

By

K. D. Jones

 

Leaves of gold and crimson crunched under the woman’s boots as she trudged through the forest. The sun was almost set now, the last rays of daylight casting everything in a dim golden glow.

“Are you ready for the Change?” asked her mentor in a ragged voice. He was too old to be hiking, she thought, though she wasn’t about to tell him that.

“Yes,” she replied without hesitation, though nerves thrummed beneath her skin. She kept climbing the hill, kept her eyes on the darkening horizon.

The air turned cool and misty. Crickets and frogs began singing and belching in the thickening night. Fireflies danced in the fog, glowing like fairies.

“We’re almost there,” said her mentor.

Her heart skipped a beat. Could she survive the Change? Did she truly have what it took to be one of the Moon-Kissed?

The trees parted, revealing a placid lake. The sky, now indigo and star-dappled, began to glow near the horizon.

“It is time,” her mentor said. “Kneel.”

She did. He tapped his staff on both shoulders. A blade hissed as it was drawn from its scabbard, and he held the point to her heart. “If your heart is not true, run yourself upon the blade now and be done with it.”

“My heart is true.”

“As one of the Moon-Kissed, one of the sacred warriors assigned with protecting our village, you must complete the Change to officially join our ranks and complete your training.”

“My heart is still true, Mentor.”

“Good. Rise, and let’s test your will.”

She stood. Though her legs wobbled, she straightened her spine and shed her thick robe. Her white silk dress billowed in the breeze blowing off the lake, and goosebumps popped up along her pale skin. Her white hair whipped behind her. Heart galloping, she lifted her eyes to the sky and felt her skin begin to itch and tingle as the moon rose.

Her mentor began chanting.

Her breath came faster and faster as silver light spread across the meadow, then the lake, then—

She cried out as the first rays of moonlight hit her, setting her flesh aflame and her bones twisting. All the while her mentor chanted, his eyes glowing with the same silvery light that now drenched her and was tearing her body apart.

She screamed, which turned into a roar as straight, white teeth became fangs the size of the blade he’d held to her heart, and her nails turned to darkened claws. Her flesh stretched and stretched as her bones broke and reformed, as muscle and sinew twined and bent around a new shape.

A stronger, more powerful being than human or animal.

The pain at last subsided, and she slowly straightened, the transformation complete. Her long, fur-tipped ears perked. So many noises. There was the rush and hiss of the waterfall, five miles away! And the sound of wagons rolling along cobblestone in Mistburn, the city ten miles from here. And the smells, so many new smells—rain-soaked earth, the incense of wildflowers, the freshness of the nearby stream—and the sights, a million vivid colors, colors she’d never dreamed of or knew even existed.

This is amazing, she thought with wonder.

All her fears abated, replaced by awe and triumph. And as the last of her doubts died, she knew her faith in herself had been rewarded.

She was strong enough to survive the Change. Strong enough to be a warrior, one of the Moon-Kissed. And now she would take her place among her people and do what she was born for.

To protect, to believe in a better tomorrow. To elicit fear in the hearts of her enemies.

And to inspire faith in those who needed it.

Flash Fiction Friday #6: “The Pegasus and the Princess”

I owe two FFFs, so here’s the first one! My goal for the year is the write 50 flash fictions. I don’t know if I’ll keep this up next year, but it’s a fun challenge in the meantime and a great way to get over my “I can’t write short fiction” fear.

***

What is flash fiction? It’s an itty bitty story, generally under 1,000 words or 3 printed pages. Fresh fantasy and sci fi flash fiction every Friday!

*Please pardon grammar whoopsies. They will be fixed when this story is published in a collection later this year.

“The Pegasus and the Princess”

A Fantasy Flash Fiction

B

K. D. Jones

 

Wind swept over the meadow, rippling the tall, green grass about the young princess’ legs. Her mother clutched her hand. “Careful. This grass is nearly as tall as you, little one! You’ll trip!”

“I saw a unicorn!” The princess pointed to the deep blue sky, squinting against the bright sunshine warming her skin.

“Don’t be silly. Unicorns haven’t existed for more than a century.”

“But I saw one!” The princess tugged on her mother’s hand, but the queen held firm.

“Come now, daughter. We’re going to be late for dinner.”

Later that night, when the moon was high in the sky and the princess was tucked away in her bed, she awoke to a happy jingling sound. A shadow moved beyond the curtains swaying on her balcony, and she climbed out of bed, rubbing her eyes as she went to see what was outside.

She walked out into the night and gasped. “You are real!”

The Pegasus, a beautiful white horse with magnificent pearlescent wings and a spiral horn made of sparkling crystal, neighed and pawed at the marble floor. Delicate silver bells hung from crimson ribbons tied to its long, silvery mane. I am real, the Pegasus said, its lilting voice echoing inside the princess’ head.

“You can speak!”

Through magic, replied the Pegasus. I only appear to those who believe. As a reward for your faith, I can grant you a wish. What is dearest to your heart?

The princess thought about what she’d like. “I’d love to fly!”

And so you shall. The Pegasus knelt, and the princess, giddy with excitement, climbed atop the sloped back of the Pegasus.

Hold on, said the Pegasus. The princess grabbed two handfuls of its mane before the Pegasus bounded into the sky.

They flew among wisps of moon-kissed clouds and stars that sparkled like diamonds. The princess couldn’t believe her eyes, and she laughed in wonder at the marvels she saw. They flew all night, and when the sun at last tinged the sky pink, the Pegasus returned her to her balcony at the castle.

“Will I see you again?” asked the princess.

If you keep believing in magic. The Pegasus turned and leapt into the sky, the music of its bells growing fainter and fainter.

The princess watched it go until it was a speck on the horizon. Sighing, she climbed back into bed and dreamed of the wind whipping her face, dreamed of laughing with such profound joy at the freedom of flying.

When she awoke, buttery sunshine covered her curtains, and the maids were coming in to start their morning chores. Her mother, clad in silk and jewels, swept into the room and sat upon her bed. “Dearest, you’ve slept in. Your tutors will be waiting.”

The princess sighed dreamily. “I had the best dream.”

“What did you dream about?”

“I dreamed I rode a winged unicorn—a Pegasus—and we flew all night!”

“That sounds like a marvelous dream.”

“A dream,” the princess murmured. “I guess it wasn’t real, after all.”

She swore she heard the distant ringing of silver bells.

Or maybe it was real, or still could be real, if she never stopped believing in magic.

Flash Fiction Friday #5: “Death Dreams”

Was out of town the past couple of days visiting family. I was so excited and so busy I forgot to schedule this. Oh, well. Better late than never. 😉 Enjoy your weekend!

***

What is flash fiction? It’s an itty bitty story, generally under 1,000 words or 3 printed pages. Fresh fantasy and sci fi flash fiction every Friday!

*Please pardon grammar whoopsies. They will be fixed when this story is published in a collection later this year.

 

“Death Dreams”

A Dark Fantasy Flash Fiction

By

K. D. Jones

The raven pecked at the skull’s empty eye socket, collecting pebbles and remnants of fine clothing for its nest high in the woods above. Gnarled tree limbs twisted and knotted against a sky black as pitch. Bones, both human and animal, hung from twine tangled in the branches, turning and singing in the chilled breeze.

A ghastly figure materialized out of thin air, emitting a garish green glow—a man, tall and lean, wearing robes of velvet and golden brocade, with a silver brooch thick with rubies at his throat. A crown lay on the dirt, rusted with rain and abandon. The figure’s chest ached at the sight, and he reached for it with skeletal fingers. They passed right through the crown. Again, he tried to grasp it. And again, failed.

All the while, the raven pecked and poked and gathered its macabre prize.

The specter shifted uneasily. Watching the bird desecrate the skull filled him up with dread, anger, and—

Anger? Why anger? His thoughts blurred and muddied together. Adrift, he sagged against a tree, clutched its rough bark for support. And felt nothing, not even a scrape beneath his palm. Curious, he ran lithe fingers over the velvet of his robes, feeling neither softness nor warmth.

The bird continued to peck.

He felt panicked and yet could not feel his pulse race or hear his breath catch. He was undeniably dead, and it both fascinated and frightened him, and how did he end up dead and would that damnable bird ever stop pecking—

With a moan, the specter swooped down upon the raven. It cawed loudly, flapping its oily-black wings in a frenzy to take flight. The specter watched it disappear into the night. He shifted mournful dark eyes to the skull. A shadow of what—who—he used to be.

He… That’s right. He knew who this was. Flashes of memories, of battles fought on blood-soaked fields, of a thousand swords dripping scarlet, flickered in and out of his head.

As if in a dream, he reached down to grab the skull. This time, his fingers connected with solid bone, and he lifted the skull up to gaze into its blackened eyes—his eyes.

How dreadful he looked. Where hair of flowing gold once crowned his head now showed the empty gray of cracked, weather-beaten bone. Teeth, once straight and whole, were now chipped or missing.

More prizes for the ravens.

His gold-plated armor was scratched and tarnished with dried blood and caked with mud. The sword that had impaled him still gleamed, as if freshly polished, pinning him to the cold, damp earth. And above, the clinking and whistling wind, which he swore mixed with the moans of the dying…

His army. His brothers and sisters in arms. All that remained of them was dust and bone.

Guilt and shame threatened to cleave him in two. He’d led them to death. He was their king, he knew the enemy was far too bold, too cunning, too ruthless and cruel, and yet he’d led them to slaughter anyway.

He’d failed them.

Tipping his head back, the specter released an agonized roar that shook the ground.

A flash of color caught his eye—a silk ribbon, blue as the sea. Wide-eyed, he watched it flutter and curl on the breeze, at last landing on the crown. It looked so out of place among the lifeless, dark misery around him.

And yet…

A blue ribbon. The symbol for safety. Then his people… Had his people made it out of the country safely before the enemy arrived?

He sat straight up, clawing at every memory, fighting to remember.

To remember how he’d caught wind of the oncoming attack and ordered a city-wide evacuation.

To remember how he’d summoned all his knights and swore to defend the city walls against the invaders, for as long as they could, despite the knowledge their enemies outnumbered them six to one.

To remember how bravely they’d fought, fueled by their determination to keep fighting, to keep standing until every last man, woman, and child was safely beyond the borders, within the magical barriers of the neighboring kingdom. Safe from harm, free to live their lives out in peace.

He stared at the ribbon fluttering in the breeze. It was the messenger’s job to release ribbons once they made it safely across the border.

The evacuation had been successful. They had not died in vain. His duty as a king had been fulfilled.

And with that, the specter smiled with relief and vanished.

 

Flash Fiction Friday #4: “Sworn Enemies”

It’s the end of another week and time for another flash fiction! This one’s kind of silly and inspired by a painting by one of my favorite fantasy artist, Stephanie Law.

What is flash fiction? It’s an itty bitty story, generally under 1,000 words or 3 printed pages. Fresh fantasy and sci fi flash fiction every Friday!

*Please pardon grammar whoopsies. They will be fixed when this story is published in a collection later this year.

“Sworn Enemies”

A fantasy flash fiction

By

K. D. Jones

 

The unicorn more or less stumbled across the dragon sleeping in the wood. Well, tripped over one of its gargantuan, black talons is more like it.

“Excuse me!” said the unicorn as it rather gracelessly corrected its balance. “They really should put a sign up or something… ‘Snoozing dragon! Blends in with scenery.’”

The dragon’s nostrils twitched as a tendril of smoke curled out and upward. It let out a deep grumble of a snore.

The unicorn cocked its head, sunlight dappling its horn and making it sparkle like diamonds. “You know, green is a rather obnoxious color for your scales, considering you’re in a forest. Or maybe you’re obnoxious for sleeping here.” He couldn’t make up his mind which.

The spikes along the dragon’s long, crested back continued to rise and fall as it slumbered.

“Well, this isn’t getting us anywhere. Ahem.”

Deep snores rumbled along the ground, vibrating into the unicorn’s delicate cloven hooves.

It blinked at the dragon. “Hello?” Prancing forward, it nudged the dragon with one of its legs. “You hear me?” Once the dragon didn’t respond, the unicorn sighed. “Just remember, buddy—this is all your fault.”

Lowering his head, the tip of his horn pointed straight at the dragon’s scaly rump, the unicorn charged.

“Ouch!” roared the dragon, leaping into the air with a gust of its mighty—and annoyingly green—wings. He clutched his rear, rubbing at the undoubtedly sore spot as tears welled in his big dark eyes. His bottom lip began to tremble.

“Oh, my,” said the unicorn. “You’re not at all like I expected you to be.”

“And—and how—did you—expected me—to be?” squeaked the dragon between sniffles.

This is pathetic, thought the unicorn. “Well, more fearsome. A real intimidating presence.”

The dragon hiccupped and farted.

Gagging and swishing away the foul stench with its tail, the unicorn rasped, “We are sworn enemies, you and me. That’s what all the legends say, anyway. It is my duty in life to hunt you down and destroy you, as it is yours to hunt my kind down and destroy us. I am light incarnate, and you are darkness incarnate.”

“That’s total bullshit! You should be darkness incarnate—you’re the one running around, poking people in the ass while they sleep!”

“Your point?” The unicorn grinned. “Pun intended. Maybe I should also be cleverness incarnate.”

“You’re mean.”

“I am not mean. I am the epitome of everything good in the world. The legends say so.”

“I don’t think I much care for these legends.”

“I suspect you don’t even know how to read,” mumbled the unicorn under its breath.

“What was that?”

“Nothing. Now, get up, you fat, lazy blob of green scales! We shall dual.”

“F-f-fight? But I don’t want to fight! I’m a pacifist!”

“You’re also a thief. I hear you made off with the king’s jewels yesterday while they were being transported from the jeweler to the castle.”

“I like the shiny,” said the dragon fondly.

The unicorn rolled his eyes. “ ‘I like the shiny,’” he said in a high-pitched, mimicking voice. “If you like the shiny so much, then you’ll love my horn as I shove it—”

“Hold on there!”

The unicorn nearly leapt out of its pearlescent skin as a maiden fair, her golden hair flowing over her green gown, crashed through the bushes and came to a halt between them.

She flung open her arms. “You can’t hurt this harmless beast!”

“Harmless he may well be, but we are sworn enemies. It is my sacred duty—”

“Yes, yes, I heard your load of horsecrap,” she said, waving a hand dismissively while propping the other up on her hip. “Look, unicorn, the truth of the matter is, you’re a bully. Always have been, always will be. The legends paint you out to be some sort of innocent little pony, but I know better, mister. I’m on to you.” She thrust a finger at him as her eyes got all squinty and crazy.

The unicorn gaped and took a step back. “You jest, madam!”

“I do not! And do you honestly believe everything you hear? What kind of simpleton are you?”

“S-simpleton?”

“Yeah!” said the dragon, nodding its head.

The maiden turned to the beast. “Where are my father’s jewels, Fluffy?”

“Fluffy!” exclaimed the unicorn.

The dragon looked morosely down at its claws. “I’m sorry if I did anything wrong, princess. I said I would protect the jewels.”

“And you’ve done a marvelous job. I can take them back to my father. I have a carriage waiting nearby to transport them. Unless you’d be kind enough to escort me—and them—back to the castle?”

The dragon grinned at the maiden, exposing hundreds of pointy teeth. She never once flinched and smiled right back. “Sure thing, Cecily.”

“C-Cecily? You’re on a first name basis?”

The dragon knelt. “Sure are,” Cecily said, tossing her hair over her shoulder as she climbed atop her dragon-mount. She gazed down coolly at the gaping unicorn. “You, however, may call me ‘Your Highness’ or ‘My Lady.’ I’m only on a first name basis with my friends. You know, creatures and people who aren’t assholes.”

The dragon unfurled its wings, preparing to launch.

“Sworn enemies indeed,” barked Cecily, right before the dragon’s wings flapped downward and off they shot into the air, up through the canopy, leaving the unicorn staring after them, for once, at a loss for words.

Flash Fiction Friday #3: “Last Gifts”

What is flash fiction? It’s an itty bitty story, generally under 1,000 words or 3 printed pages. Fresh fantasy and sci fi flash fiction every Friday!

*Please pardon grammar whoopsies. They will be fixed when this story is published in a collection later this year.

 

“Last Gifts”

A Fantasy Flash Fiction

By

K. D. Jones

The sun was high in the sky when the bear happened upon the penguin lounging on a cushion of snow.

“Ah,” said the bear, “at last, someone I can ask for directions! Where might I find the North Pole?”

The penguin blinked at her. “What on earth are you?”

“I’m a bear, of course.”

“Bears are white.”

The bear looked down at her thick brown fur. “I beg to differ. Can you give me directions to the North Pole?”

“We don’t have any brown bears here.”

“So I’ve noticed. I’m on a special quest to meet Santa Claws to request some gifts for my cubs.”

“Santa Claws? Who is that?”

“It doesn’t matter. Where do I find the North Pole?”

“Aren’t you a long way from home?”

“Miles and days from home. Which direction do I go?”

“To get home?”

“To get to the North Pole.”

“Ah, well, you won’t have any luck here.”

“Why is that?”

“Son, you’re at the South Pole!”

“Well, that does pose a problem. Now, at least, I know the only path I have to go is up. Thank you, that answers my question.” With that, the bear turned and left, leaving the penguin shaking its head.

Weeks later, after traveling by land and boat, the bear arrived at the North Pole. Though she was very hungry and was weary from her long journey, she did not stop until she had reached the famed Santa Claws.

The Great White Bear sat on his ice throne and looked down upon the brown bear. “Do you know where you are?”

“Yes.”

“And why have you come?”

“To ask for gifts for my young,” replied the brown bear.

“And what gifts could be worth such a long and perilous journey?”

“I am dying,” said the brown bear. “I was poisoned some many moons ago by a hunter’s dart and shall soon perish. I would like to grant my cubs protection from all harm, so long as they shall live.”

“How many cubs do you have?”

“Two.”

“You may ask for two gifts, then.”

The bear had thought long and hard about this. “I shall also wish for them to know how much I love them after I’ve passed. For them to know I am always with them and am watching over them.”

“Fine gifts. They shall be given. What is your name?”

“Ursa.”

“Well, Ursa, I shall grant your wish.”

With her dying breath, Ursa at last laid down and died, finally at peace. The Great White Bear ushered her spirit to the stars, where it lingered as a constellation, always looking down upon her cubs, just as she’d asked.

And, for the rest of their long, happy lives, the two cubs grew up and knew neither harm nor pain, and never suffered for they were never truly alone. They had each other—and a mother’s undying love.

Flash Fiction Friday #2: “Ruby and the Velvet Slipper”

What is flash fiction? It’s an itty bitty story, generally under 1,000 words or 3 printed pages. Fresh fantasy and sci fi flash fiction every Friday!

*Please pardon grammar whoopsies. They will be fixed when this story is published in a collection later this year. Enjoy, and have a great weekend!

“Ruby and the Velvet Slipper”

A Fantasy Flash Fiction Story

By

K. D. Jones

At sixteen, there were two things in life that Princess Ruby loved more than anything—the color red and shoes, shoes, more shoes! Guests to the castle would often ask to see her shoe collection, an impressive exhibit of nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine pairs of shoes, containing everything from satin slippers to sky-high heels made of hammered moondust. She wore them all and loved them all, often spending hours a day making sure no shoe had a scuff and each was in tip-top shape.

One day, she noticed an empty spot on her shelf. “Myr,” she said, “why do I not have any velvet slippers?”

“Because Hamperton stopped producing velvet, my lady,” replied her handmaiden.

What dreadful news! Since when had that happened? “Unacceptable!” declared Ruby. “I must procure some velvet slippers and complete my collection!”

So she set out, searching day and night at all the most popular shops and sending inquiries far and wide to kingdoms both familiar and foreign. After a year, with still no velvet slippers to be found, Ruby was becoming quite agitated when a letter came in the mail for her.

Certain it was another boring marriage proposal, she tossed the letter aside and thought nothing more of it. Next month, a visitor arrived at the castle—a dragon lord from far away.

She was less impressed with his dragon-steed than he with her shoe collection. “So this is the famous collection I’ve heard so much of,” he mused, wandering about the shelves and admiring her footwear.

She beamed. “Yes. I’ve spent years honing it. I’m quite the avid collector.”

“So you say,” he said wryly, throwing her a backward glance. Jewels like glimmering embers and gold embroidery designed like dragons wove down the length of his cavat. Finally, he turned to face her. “Forgive me, lady, but isn’t there something more important than finding a velvet slipper? You seem a bit obsessed.”

“Of course I am! I’ve spent my life collecting these things. I can’t stop now! It’s a matter of great importance!”

His eyes saddened. “But you’ve missed so much of the world.”

“Tch.” She crossed her arms and thrust her delicate nose into the air. “What has the world ever done for me?”

“There is a worldwide famine going on, lady. Many people are starving because they have no money to buy food.”

“There… there is?” Her own stomach growled, just thinking about eating.

“Children are dying.”

Great heavens, now that was terrible. “Isn’t there anything I can do?”

He nodded and opened his arms wide, gesturing to the rainbow of shoes around them. “You can sell your collection, my lady. It would fetch a king’s ransom and more than end the plight ravaging our homelands.”

Her mouth gaped open in horror. “But-but I can’t do that!”

“Why not?”

“They’re my life!”

“You have no life, because you’ve spent it all in here.” Anger singed his words, making them sharp. “You spend your days in here, wasting time fussing over something completely trivial.”

“It’s not trivial to me!”

He sighed and shook his head. “I had thought to get through to you, to enlist your help and save millions. But you are too far lost in your obsession.” As he walked past her, he paused at the closet door. “You will never know true happiness until you let this go.” With that, he left.

How absurd! Her, give up her shoes? It was like asking the moon goddess to forfeit the moon, or the lord of night to relinquish his hold over the stars. She’d rather rip out her soul than abandon her quest for the ultimate shoe collection!

Days passed, but she found the more she tried taking care of her shoes, the more she couldn’t stand being around them. Disgusted and guilty and no idea why, she at last went outside the castle gates for the first time in years.

It was awful. A place once blooming with flowers and color now reeked of death and despair. “Please, miss!” they begged her, not recognizing her and thinking her to simply be a courtier. “Please, feed us! We are starving!”

She looked around, horrified by the lack of basic comforts these people—her people—lacked. Things she had been taking for granted all these years.

She felt a bolt of determination, followed by a thunderclap of grit. Suddenly, the damn velvet slipper did not matter. None of those silly little shoes did.

Racing back up to her castle, she ordered all the guards and servants to prep her collection for sale and to send word to every corner of the world. Three days later an auction was held. Emperors and empresses, kings and queens and princes and every manner of royalty showed up to bid on the spectacle of foot fashion. More money than had ever been seen was poured into the coffers, which she immediately donated to help feed the world. The famine vanished, and the people loved her.

And, for the first time in her short life, she was really, truly happy.