Massacre

avenue

© Sue Vincent

“It’s Shay! She’s trapped! We’ve got to save her!”

Seven-year-old Jake woke up panicked and hyperventilating in the shadow of a dragon’s grave.

“Jake. Take it easy. It’s okay.” His sister Mandy had him by the shoulders. His eyes looked glazed, like he was still asleep. She hugged him close to her. “It’s okay. We’re all here with you.”

He started to calm down but was still trembling. “Mandy, you’ve got to believe me. I saw Shay. She’s been captured, I don’t know how long ago. We’ve got to find her. They’ll kill her if we don’t.”

Then he felt a hand on his shoulder. “You said you saw Shay in a dream?” It was Dani, the dragonrider. Her voice was calm, but her own experiences told her that dreams carried great and terrible messages.

The little boy pulled away from his sister and looked back. “Yes. She was in some dark place, a forest or a cave maybe. They had her tied up in chains. She looked awful, all cut up, bruised, and bleeding.”

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Estrangement

arch

© Sue Vincent

A warm summer breeze blew from one end of the passageway to the other. Raisa Hewitt could feel it gently caress her face and flow like fingers through her long, dark hair. She could hear the friendly chattering of birds from outside the arch ahead of her, the rustle of leaves in tree branches, she inhaled sweet almond and jacaranda blossoms. The scene was supremely idyllic and she realized she couldn’t be in more danger.

She’d dressed casually like a tourist, an American on holiday taking in the ruins of Spanish castles and churches. Soft canvas shoes made not a whisper as she padded like a cat across the flat stones beneath her. Jeans over a black leotard and a light cotton shirt afforded comfort and mobility. The Springfield XDM Compact in the holster at the base of her spine offered both maximum portability and stopping power. She hoped she wouldn’t have to use it.

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The Winter Rose

winter rose

© Sue Vincent

Nancy clung to the base of a gas street lamp just across the street from St. Andrews shivering as she listened to the beautiful hymns and organ music late on Christmas Eve. The tiny child’s clothes were too thin to ward off the December chill and wind, and the cloth wrapped around the perforated soles of her shoes did nothing to keep out the snow.

She couldn’t go back but no one else would take her. Papa had never come home from his sea voyage to America where he said he could earn a fortune for their poor family, and Mama had been beaten and murdered on the way home from cleaning the houses of rich folk, all for a few farthings.

Auntie Pierce took in her baby brother Benjy but said she wanted no “dirty little girl” in her home and sent her away to her friend Lady Harrington to work with the maids. The maids said she was too small and weak and would be nothing but a nuisance, so sent her back to her Auntie’s. Auntie’s man servant refused her entry at the door and she found herself alone.

A boy named Charley Bates discovered her begging on a street corner for just a few pence with which to buy bread and took her to Fagin with promises of work and pay. It was then she embarked on her new life as a thief.

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The Woman in Blue

blue light

© Sue Vincent

Obe was tending the fire on the shore by the bay. The sun had set to his right hours ago and most of the clan slept. Their tiny settlement was young and night predators hunted nearby so he kept watch, though the fire and the scent of the men should keep them away.

The moon shone blue through the clouds illuminating the water before him and the island beyond. Other clans of their tribe occupied the land across the bay to the south and east, but Nakuma’s people hoped to make the northlands their home.

Like most young men, waiting alone bored him and with the passing minutes, he became drowsy. He wrapped his blanket, woven by his sisters, tighter around him and with the fire, he felt warm. If his father found him sleeping, he would be struck and shamed in front of the other hunters, so he forced his eyes open. He heard her before he actually could see her.

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The Thaw

the thaw

© Sue Vincent

It wasn’t the ravenous hunger that awoke her for that had been with her since the accident. There was a sound, a new sound. Water. She could hear tiny trickles of water around her.

Aleera didn’t know how long she had been in the dark with the unrelenting pressure keeping her immobile. The cold was irrelevant to her, even the lack of air was meaningless, but the weight above her was massive. She hadn’t been able to move so she slept, though fitfully. She experienced moments of startling lucidity and then she panicked. She was trapped, unable to move more than the slightest degree in her fingers and toes. What had happened? If only she could remember.

Then she would drift away again into blessed oblivion within her accursed prison.

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