Special collections

Day 18: Susurrus
No Novel November 2019

A girl in a library with magical glowing books - The reader by charlie bowater via Deviant Art

The dry, gentle rustle of pages accompanies me as I pass through the stacks. I’m new; the books aren’t used to me yet. They bluster inside their heavy covers, jump skittishly when I touch their spines, resist when they’re reshelved and their chains locked. But I ignore their spiteful susurrus and go about my duties: dusting and polishing, feeding and watering, grooming and reassuring.

By sunset, they begin to settle. I draw the curtains and tuck thick velvet blankets between their bookends, humming lullabies as I go. One hand on the door, I blow out the final candle and bid them goodnight. I tiptoe away, already anticipating the morning. Perhaps tomorrow will be the day they accept me as their Librarian.

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here. 

Our own personal fairytale

Day 16: Remember
No Novel November 2019

Illustration of a giant dragon breathing fire on a lone knight - Firebreath by drachenmagier via Deviant Art

“Once upon a time, there was a handsome prince. Being the eldest son, it was vital that he marry quickly and well. Other rulers offered their most beautiful daughters as a match, but he turned them all away. His parents began to worry. Would he be eligible to wear the crown when the time came?

“The search was interrupted by the sudden appearance of a dragon. Every knight volunteered, but the prince shouted them down. There had been a prophecy: His future bride waited in the clutches of the dragon. He would go alone or never marry, allowing the kingdom to fall into ruin.

“What choice did they have? He set out on the eve of the harvest moon, the ring of destiny in his ears.

“But when the prince arrived at the watchtower by the sea, he found no wyrmling but a gargantuan beast. It fell upon him with claws and teeth and flame as he retreated into the surf. Hemmed in by death, the prince marshaled his courage for what he hoped would be a fatal blow.

“But before he could strike, the dragon let out an unearthly scream and fell dead in the sand.

“A girl wielding a bloody sword emerged from behind the carcass. She thanked him for his distraction and offered to take him home since his horse had been eaten.

“They’ve been together ever since.”

The queen gripped the king’s hand as another spasm shook his failing body.

“I remember,” he whispered.

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here. 

More precious than gold

Day 14: Jewel
No Novel November 2019

Tall wizard tower in the forest painting - rapunzels tower by crazycolleeny

“This is not what we signed up for.”

“What do we do now?”

“I’m trading it for gold anyway.”

The three dwarves huddled in a far corner of the creaking turret, heads together, voices low. After a month on the road battling orcs, bugbears, and a particularly vicious shrubbery, they’d found what they were looking for.

Almost.

It was supposed to be a simple quest: a standard B&E with a smidge of larceny. Not even the paladin had complained. Sure, taking out the wizard at the top of the tower had been tricky, what with the moat and no doors and all, but a lucky shot from the rogue had fixed that. When it came to transporting the loot, though, there were no good options.

“We could just leave it.”

“And risk someone else taking it? No.”

“Okay, then, Mister Charisma, you deal with this.”

“Fine, I will.”

The bard turned back to the center of the room where their treasure waited. The Jewel of Elrovius, prized for its rare magic, sold from buyer to buyer over the past year, stolen by this (ex)dark elf wizard, and sought for a handsome reward by its previous owner. He winced to look at it. So small, so dangerous.

Getting down on his knees, he addressed the Jewel directly.

“Did he hurt you?” he asked in the girl’s human language. She shook her head, bouncing shabby curls. “Good.”

“Are you taking me back to…him?” she whispered.

“No, dear. We will take you home.”

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here. 

The rager of the gods

Day 13: Envy
No Novel November 2019

Two green beer bottles in a bucket of ice via WallPaperFlare.com

Shots! Shots! Shots!

The gods sat in a circle around a bucket filled with ice and unlabeled bottles. With Hera away for the weekend, Olympus had become the site of an epic rager, complete with a dance floor and a mountain of ambrosia pizzas. Most of the younger deities had already passed out, but a handful of stalwarts remained.

There were three potions left, identical except for effect. Lust had sent Hephaestus and four demigods for a different kind of party; Wrath took Artemis and Aphrodite to the backyard; Poseidon was working off Gluttony in the kitchen; and Hermes had a Sloth aura that made them all sleepy.

Athena scrutinized the bottles. No matter what she drew, it was guaranteed regret in the morning. But what the Hades—what happens on Olympus stays on Olympus, right?

She grabbed one and knocked it back. The taste made her cough, acrid and sharp, and when she opened her eyes again, the world was bathed in green light.

She waited to see what else would happen. But as seconds passed, she realized that while she felt no different, the eyes of her friends had turned baleful and cold. Desire mixed with hatred.

No one said anything. They just stood up and left, one by one.

Athena sat alone on the throne room floor wiping away bitter tears. The effect was only temporary, she knew, but the ache, the isolation, the emptiness—the sting of envy—was all too real.

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you’d like to know more and/or join in, click here.

The Dragonslayer

Day 1: Permission
No Novel November 2019

I knelt before the throne with a thousand eyes heavy on my back. The point of a sword touched my shoulders once, twice, then I rose on shaking legs to meet the gaze of the king.

“As the lone Knight of the Flame, you have received this kingdom’s highest honor and also its most dreaded task. Your path leads down a perilous road to a destination from which none have returned. May you be victorious against the dread serpent. Your kingdom is depending on you. I am depending on you. Congratulations, and farewell.”

The king extended his bejeweled hand. I took it with as much strength as I dared given his advanced age, kissed the signet, and forced determination onto my face. Beneath the crown, the king’s expression was veiled, not with the formality of office but with odd tenderness. Pity, perhaps?

Before I could wonder further, he released my grip with pressing fingers. The tilt of his head warned me not to question the tiny parchment he’d left in my palm. Mind and heart racing, I tucked it into my gauntlet as I retreated from the hall.

It wasn’t until evening, loosening my armor beside the campfire after a hard day’s ride, that I remembered the note. It fluttered from my glove, tossed by the wind almost into the flames. I snatched it back, myself burning with curiosity.

I read it once, twice, then sank on shaking legs to weep.

“Dearest Daughter,
You have permission to fail.
Love, Dad.”

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here.