Archive | March 31, 2013

The Toll

To @RealBrigang’s Prompt
There was only one road through the Black Forest, and the Forest, standing between a cliff an a desolation, was the only route between Rondval and Alathaca, the two biggest cities in the West.

Of course, someone had gotten the clever idea to set up a toll booth across the road in the middle of the Forest.

And of course Lute and the Riders needed to get to Alathaca.

“All right. You know the drill.”

“Let you do the talking. If we have something to provide, step forward and wait to be acknowledged.” Mariam’s tone was bored irritated. Lute didn’t mind. She would do what was needed.

“That. Everyone else?”

“Got it.” Tom and Robin chorused. Torvan, of course, said nothing.

The toll booth was a stone house, arching over the road into the forest on both sides, leaving a narrow tunnel just wide enough for a wagon; the tunnel, in turn, was blocked with three heavy gates. There was no rushing this toll bar.

Lute rode to the gate and pulled the bell-cord. Travelers from Alathaca had told them this was how it worked: You rang the bell, you paid your toll, you went through and didn’t look back.

But nobody had told them what the toll was. Nobody was willing to answer that simple question.

“How many in your party?” The voice was bored-sounding and disembodied.

“Five sentient beings and five horses. What is the toll?”

“All will pass through the tunnel.”

“What is the toll?”

“All will pass through the tunnel.”


The voice laughed. “Or all will stay.”

They really had to get to Alathaca.

“We’ll go through.”

“Yes, you will.” The body laughed again. “And I will take my fee.”

The gate opened and Lute rode in, followed quickly by the Riders. They really had to get to Alathaca. Preferably before the constable of Rondval noticed they were gone

“So what’s the fee?” The gate ahead of them hadn’t opened yet and the gate behind them was swinging closed. There wasn’t enough room to turn their horses, barely enough room to move.

“Ten years.”

“Ten, what?” For a moment, Lute thought they’d ridden into a constable’s trap. And then everything began vanishing from around them.

“Ten years. There are five of you. You will serve two years each”

“Serve!” There was no way out. Lute looked around him, but even the nothingness vanished.

“Have no fear. You will return to the same time as you left. But you will serve.”

Mocking laughter chased the into unconsciousness.

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In Theory, a story of Science! For the Giraffe Call

For [personal profile] kelkyag‘s prompt

“In theory, it should work.”

If they had a dollar every time they’d heard that, Alex mused… they would be far poorer than they were. Because for every 100 times a phrase like that ended in failure, there was once where it succeeded wildly. And Cara and Alex had shares in the company.

“Which theory?” Alex bit, because this new one was interesting. Also cute, but that was probably beside the point.

“Clarke’s Third Law.”

“Clarke’s…” Alex glanced at Cara. Cara would know.

“Arthur C. Clarke. Sci-fi author? Jeanne down in PR is doing some research on his theories.”

“Oh, that Clarke. What are you trying to make, Juris?”

Their newest scientist lifted the blade from the vat of bubbling blue liquid. It shone brightly, even against the fluorescent light of the lab. “In theory, it should talk to the wielder, make small corrections for better aim, and glow in a nice pretty way, especially in the presence of ill-intent.”

Cara and Alex shared a look. “You’re making a magic sword.”

“Well.” Juris beamed. “It seems the best way to test the theory.”

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The Tower Needs, a story for the Giraffe call

To [personal profile] thnidu‘s prompt

“Kishiara, the Tower needs men right now.” The Elder was reduced to pleading. Then again, Kishiara was his last option. “You know that.”

“I don’t see why.” The Elder had chosen to talk to Kishiara during combat training; she didn’t take her eyes off her students as she fended off lightning bolts. “The sorceresses are doing fine.”

“Simple biology dictates that we need men as well.”

“Ugh. Can’t someone else do it?”

“Nobody else was… available.” Willing, he meant. Kishiara hissed.

“So it’s me by process of elimination.”

“Or the temple will only last another ten or fifteen years.”

“But I like – stop that, Jegan – like being me.”

“I know. And I apologize. But we all have to sacrifice something for the Temple.”

Kishiara couldn’t argue with that. They all knew what the Elder had sacrificed, decades ago when the need had been different. “Fine. Let me finish this class first.”

The Elder had not expected fast acquiescence. “So soon?”

“If not now, Elder, you will find my mind changed. Now… let me finish this?”

The Elder left, to prepare the ritual. They all had sacrifices to make. He reminded himself of that again and again. The tower would not live without men, and Kishiara was the only one who could provide them with men.

She went into the ritual pool naked, willing, her head held high although her hair had been shaven off as part of the preparation. In order to succeed, the ritual’s notes said, leave as much self as possible outside the pool.

Kishiara’s head went under the water. In due time – an hour that seemed an eternity – seven male heads emerged. The Tower had its sorcerers.

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