Welcome to the Xeroversary! We're celebrating two years of the Xeroverse with guest fiction from some of my favourite flash fiction writers. Thanks for dropping by, come in, enjoy the fiction, say hello. =)
...and don't miss the afterparty! ^_^
by Helen A. Howell
Fog draped around Stonehenge. Smoky tendrils reached up towards the pale moon in the midnight sky. She was grateful that it covered their presence like a blanket carelessly thrown to the ground. The Raven perched on her bony shoulder, and pecked relentlessly at the ebony strands of hair that fell about her face.
“Patience my pretty, it’s nearly time.”
The bird replied with a screeching caw.
“Shush Croaker, you’ll wake the dead.” Maroosa cackled at her own joke. She placed the casket containing Nadgar’s remains on the ground. “Time to rise and rule your world again. Croaker, go fetch me a living creature. We only have a limited time in which this will work. Be quick.”
The bird took off from her shoulder and soared upwards, an inky shadow drifting across a backdrop of black velvet. Maroosa busied herself gathering small rocks. When she had enough she placed them around, a circle within a circle. She pulled a small leather pouch from her robe and tried to unwrap the binding. Her gnarled fingers struggled to free the contents.
“Blast these hands.” She tore at the leather strings with her teeth; they cut deep into her bottom lip. “See what I suffer to bring you home my lord.”
Blood trickled down her chin as she spat the words out and gripped the ties once more. The knot gave; she unclenched her jaw and unravelled the knot with her shrivelled fingers. She tipped the mixture of herbs into the centre of the circle and cast her eyes skywards. The beat of her bird’s wings resounded above her head, and she narrowed her eyes as she watched it come in to land at her feet. Clasped between its beak was a field mouse, its cries falling on deaf ears.
Maroosa looked at Croaker and chuckled. “Clever bird,” she muttered.
She pulled two flints from the deep pocket concealed within her skirt, dropped to her knees and struck them together. After three attempts she got a spark that set the herbs ablaze. She rose to her feet and fetched the casket.
“Not long now Croaker.”
The bird stared directly at her, and its eyes glistened in the moonlight. The mouse continued to struggle in its beak. She lifted the lid, took a handful of the ashes and watched as they slipped through her fingers. For a moment she seemed lost, almost as if in a trance, then she turned and emptied them onto the flames. “Fire took you and so it shall return you. I exchange this life for yours.”
She grasped the mouse from the birds beak and tossed it into the flames. Raising her arms towards the moon she began to chant the words of the resurrection spell. The herbs burnt brightly, flames leapt and danced, becoming more frenzied in their appearance as her chants became more urgent.
Maroosa lowered her arms, her eyes remained fixed upon the flames that were now weaving in and out of each other and growing taller every second.
“It’s working Croaker, it’s working.” The bird replied with a ‘Craaack’ and flew back onto her shoulder.
“Soon he will be here.” She patted the soft feathers of her companion.
The flames twisted and twirled, Maroosa watched as the fiery figure of the Master took shape before her eyes. He stood ten feet tall in the centre of her circle with his back to her.
“Lord you have returned,” she dropped to her knees. The bird took flight. “I’ve waited so long for this moment. Come let me assist you out of the flames.” She got to her feet and reached out to him.
“You called me?” The deep voice resounded through the air.
“I have returned you so you can rule our world again.” Her hand remained outstretched towards him, and her heart thumped within her sunken chest.
“How much do you love me?” His words echoed around her.
“With my life my Lord. I have never stopped loving you.” She stared at his back, willing him to face her.
He turned; the strong features she remembered were still carved upon his face. He reached out from the flames and seized her hand.
“With your life.That’s fortunate,” he said, and pulled her into the fire as he stepped out.
Her screams cut through the air, high pitched and tortured as she remained trapped within the circle, the flames licking her flesh and burning it to a crisp.
Nadgar whistled and Croaker appeared from the shadows of the great stones that formed Stonehenge and settled on his shoulder.
“How I’ve missed you Croaker. You did well today. She was foolish think a mouse would be enough of an exchange.” He stroked the bird’s ink black feathers. “Come my pretty, we have a coven to rule.”
Helen is a fiction writer who writes in several genres which include fantasy, noir, horror and humour. She has written several short stories, flash fictions, poems and completed her first novel, a children’s fantasy fiction. Her work has appeared in e-zines as well as in print. She is a member of Friday Flash Dot Org and is a regular participant in writing Friday Flash.
You can find her blog at http://helen-scribbles.com and find her on Twitter @Helenscribbles
Xero says: Helen, as she says, dabbles in many genres and forms... on her blog you can find tiny fic, drabbles, flash and serial fiction, often (as you may have guessed from this flash) with a dark edge to it. She always has a friendly word to say, too. =)