October 17

Fictober, Prompt 17 – “There’s just something about them.”, Original Fiction.

Warnings: none. Urban fantasy.

It turned out that this was a continuation of Prompt 13, which I was not expecting. I really like this world though!


With that specific group of United Wizards Legion members thoroughly removed, thanks to the help of my new…friend from elsewhere, the next few days were calmer than I had anticipated. There were more of them out there in the world, but this loss would be a blow to their group, and this had been the most immediate threat.

We were lying low at my small house in Oak Hill outside the city, which mostly consisted of trying all the different foods we could find take-out for, and me buying new subscriptions to both the electronic and magical entertainment services so that we had something to fill our time other than the internet. The former was more than I anticipated, and the latter was probably a bad idea, since it wasn’t going to give my friend the most realistic view of things. Still, he seemed almost as interested in how the technology and magic worked (sometimes separately, sometimes together) as in the content of the shows and movies we watched.

On the second day, I made the mistake of saying, “Um, is there something I can call you? A name, or title, or anything?”

He blinked those human-but-not eyes at me, then smiled. (Like his laughter, it made my spine crawl, but…not in a bad way? Or maybe I was just getting used to the feeling.) “My native tongue is not one that humans find easy.”

I almost said, “Try me,” but managed to hold my tongue. For now. I was pretty good with languages.

“But,” he went on, looking thoughtful, “I would be happy to pick a human moniker, if that would suit.”

“Sure,” I agreed, and then promptly made my second mistake by introducing him to a few baby name sites on the internet.

“Are you sure that I cannot use Enguerrand?” he said after I had fervently vetoed his first half-dozen choices. “It has such a nice resonance to it.”

“What does that even mean? Never mind,” I shook my head when he opened his mouth to explain. “You’re trying to blend in a bit, right? If I’m going to call you by this name in public, then it can’t be too unusual.”

“I suppose you are right,” he sighed, and eventually settled on Alexander, to my relief. I was never going to be able to think of him as an “Alex” or otherwise shorten the name, but at least it wouldn’t sound weird.

Grocery shopping on day four was an experience.

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October 16

Fictober, Prompt 16 – “Listen. No, really listen.”, Original Fiction

Warnings: horror, implied monster, ambiguous ending. Midwest/north woods gothic.


I stuttered to a halt in the middle of the trail, looking warily to my left where the high, trilling call had sounded.

Of course, there were loons out on the lake at this time of year, making their way south for the winter. I just hadn’t realized how much more eerie the sound would be when I was out in the woods after sunset, and not safe inside the coziness of our cabin. We couldn’t see the lake from here, the trees were too thick, but it was nearby.

“Just a loon,” Lukas called back to me, still walking up ahead.

“I know,” I said, unable to shake the feeling of uneasiness as I continued, trotting a little to catch up to him. He had spent more time up here than I had, but even I knew what the loons sounded like by now.

We passed on through the increasing darkness. Lukas thought there might be some good owl-watching tonight, if we could find the right spot in the woods. That had sounded a lot more fun back in the cabin, where it had been warm near the fire.

Now, out here, with night falling around us and the temperatures slowly dropping, I was less sure about it. I shivered, and shivered more when the loon called again, long and wailing.

Another voice answered it this time, almost that same, wailing cry.

Almost.

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October 15

Fictober, Prompt 15 – “That’s what I’m talking about!”

Warnings: none. Fantasy of sorts.


“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Nadia called to me as we ducked low over our mounts to avoid the vegetation hanging low over our heads. Our mounts continued to pace forward steadily in spite of the thick foliage. “We can’t just ride up like this and assume we’re going to receive a warm welcome!”

I waved off her concerns, careful not to grin. We probably weren’t going to receive a warm welcome…that was half the point. The other half was to make a statement.

No one was going to ignore two riders who had managed to tame mounts like these.

Of course, “tame” might not be quite the right word. The pair stopped, necks stretching out as their heads swiveled, looking and smelling for something that had caught their attention.

“That’s what I’m talking about!” Nadia whispered fiercely, careful not to disturb whatever potential prey had been spotted.

I did grin this time but leaned forward and touched the back of my mount, the bigger female. “Maybe later?” I asked, cajoling. “We did eat just a couple of hours ago.”

Her head turned slightly so that one large eye could stare at me. The look seemed more reproachful than irritated, which was a good sign.

“I promise we’ll find you some good hunting grounds when we get there,” I promised, raising my voice so that the male could hear too. It wasn’t clear exactly how well they understood me, but they weren’t unintelligent creatures, and talking to them seemed to be working well so far. “It’s good land, and we are coming to help.”

The female blew out a breath, relaxed out of her alert stance, and paced onward. I smoothed a hand along her thick scales next to my saddle in thanks and reassurance. Her mate followed without question.

I was hoping, if we could get settled outside the city according to plan, that there might be some little ones too, at some point. It wasn’t mating or nesting season now, fortunately, but it wasn’t too many weeks away. I was glad that mated pairs stayed together year-round, though, as it made this much easier.

“Well, at least they listen to you,” Nadia grumbled, but I saw her giving the male a surreptitious pat as well. Secretly, she loved them as much as I did, but felt that one of us needed to be “sensible” about it.

“It will be fine,” I told her, grinning again, and it would be. The city might not be excited to see us immediately, but once I explained and we four proved ourselves as a team, they would let us stay.

After all, who was going to turn down a pair of tyrannosaurs as gate guardians?


(RIP, Victor Mílan)

October 13

Fictober, Prompt 13 – “I never knew it could be this way.”

Warnings: none, I think? Slight creepiness, urban fantasy.


It wore the shape of a young man, though the pupils in its eyes were not quite round, and its teeth just a little bit too sharp.

It grinned at me. “Have I gotten it right?”

“Pretty close,” I said, and explained about the eyes and the teeth. Something in my vision rippled, and now it looked like a perfectly normal human was standing in front of me.

“And now?” It asked, with another smile. I nodded. “Very well. What next?”

“Follow me,” I told him – it – and turned to leave the clearing. I sensed its hesitation, but heard footsteps following.

I was taking a chance, turning my back on it, but it seemed more pleased than upset at being summoned, and I thought that it probably wouldn’t try to rip through the binding spells just yet.

It could, I suffered under no illusion about that. I hadn’t meant to summon something quite this powerful, but this had been the creature that answered, and I’d had no choice but to proceed with my plans. I was just fortunate that it was amused for now.

We crossed out of the woods and back into the town. I kept going, heading for my car, grimly intent on my goal, and didn’t realize that it was no longer following me until I was a dozen paces away.

The look of…was that surprise? Wonder? Curiosity? Whatever the expression was, it was not something I had expected to see on the face of something like this being.

Yet there it stood, looking up the small-town street of houses and shops and streetlights, and the distant skyline of the city, examining them with every sign of interest.

“The last time I was on this world,” it said after another moment of observation, “it was nothing like this.”

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October 12

Fictober, Prompt 12 – “What if I can’t see it?”

Warnings: implied violent death, implied eldritch horrors. Horror-flavored fantasy.


“Of course, the containment is in place!” The Head Sorcerer was clearly offended by my question, drawing himself up to his full, thin height and looking down his nose at me. “What did you say your credentials were?”

Keeping my face neutral, I held out the badge I had already shown to five different people to make it as far as the Head Sorcerer’s office. “I am an independent containment inspector, sent by Magistrate Susumu. I am making rounds of all the known Holding Places, doing a standard inspection, and I need to see the seals and locks myself.” I handed over the letter of command from the Magistrate before he could ask for it.

“Well, I’m sure this is all quite unnecessary, but seeing as Magistrate Susumu has commanded it, then we must comply.” He gave a put-upon sigh, tossing the letter back to me. I caught it deftly just before it slid off the edge of his desk and tucked it away in my robes. The Head Sorcerer grabbed a large ring of keys carelessly from a drawer, and stood, coming around the desk and sweeping out of the room without waiting for me.

I followed silently, noting the problems that would have to be entered into my report: unsecured keys, a dangerously arrogant attitude regarding the containment, and a failure to perform any basic magical verification as to the veracity of my person, my badge, or my letter of command.

I followed the Head Sorcerer down through the great stone building, and then further down still into the catacombs below.

Poor lighting, I noted, continuing my earlier list, unsafe levels of moisture on the staircase.

Perhaps that last was a little bit petty. Despite being only halfway through my tour of inspections, my tolerance level for authorities overly impressed with their own importance had rarely been lower. And a slippery staircase was never a good idea anywhere, much less one leading to a containment area, where one might conceivably need to move fast.

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October 10

Fictober, Prompt 10 – “Listen, I can’t explain it, you’ll have to trust me.”

Warnings: none? Brief space-related danger.


My breath echoed hollowly inside my helmet, and I kept it as slow and even as I could. Panicking now would do nothing to help retain the dwindling oxygen supply strapped to my back.

“Any luck?” I called over the comm. The systems I was looking at gave me hope, but the ship had been floating dead in space for…well, a long time. The wiring was intact, which was a good start.

A grunt was all I got back, and I rolled my eyes. “Arun.”

“There’s an SFOG,” he said, “seems to be intact.”

I let out a breath of relief and felt the worst of the incipient panic lift from my chest. “Let’s stay on our tanks for now,” I suggested.

“Yeah,” he agreed. “I’ve got at least three hours left, maybe more.”

“I think I’m about the same. That should be enough time to get us moving, and we can fire the SFOG at that point.”

“Which you’re going to do how, exactly? The reactor’s dead-cold. Suit’s not picking up any radiation from that direction, must have run out.” I could hear the frown in his voice; the ship had been drifting for a long time, but probably not long enough that all of the reactor’s fuel would have been consumed.

I pursed my lips, decided I wasn’t quite ready to explain yet, and certainly not over the comm. Arun was going to have a hard enough time accepting what I could do when he could see it for himself. “For now, we just need to get pointed in the right direction and get moving, so a burst should be enough. We can worry about steadier power and steering after that.”

“We’re only so far out of the debris field,” he warned, “but you’re right.”

“Check about the reactor?” I asked, buying a little more time. “I’ll come down to see the engines once I’m finished up here.”

“Yeah.” He clicked off, and I turned my attention back to the panel in front of me. I was going to have to give the engines a pretty good kick, but I did need a little bit of steering and diagnostic information first.

It was harder to do with gloves on, but I always made sure mine didn’t have the wrong kind of insulation in them, so the magic flowed out slowly but steadily into the discreet, five-finger port built into the control panel.

After ten, heart-stopping seconds of nothing, the screens around me winked into life.

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October 8

Fictober, Prompt 8 – “Can’t you stay?”

Warnings: none. Fantasy, with a snake friend.


I felt my tracking spell die as I climbed out of the culvert and scrambled up the dirt embankment that rose just outside the city limits. Cursing, I hauled myself up faster, and darted across the road and through the trees on the other side.

Coming to a halt at the edge of the huge field that suddenly stretched out before me, I quickly pulled the tuft of fur out of the pouch at my belt and crouched down to perform the spell again. It should still work, I had only nabbed the fur a short time ago.

The spell flared to life…and then promptly died again.

I stared at the fur, and then out at the field. Distance shouldn’t have been an issue, not at this range, and even if there were a lot of rats here, it should still have worked.

But, the tracking spells were not perfect, and a large number of rats might be enough to confuse it, especially if there were any that might be related to the one I had tracked.

I stared out at the field again in deepening dismay. How was I to find a single rat in this huge field without my tracking spell? I couldn’t just let it go. More people were falling ill by the day, and my searching had led me to that rat, specifically. I had to get my hands on it, or the illness was going to spread, and that inevitably meant that a lot of people were going to die.

I started running through the list of possible spells that I could use, wondering if there was any way I could modify the tracking spell sufficiently to get it to work—

Something moved, slithering, out of the corner of my eye, and I jerked my gaze down.

Along the edge of the grass came a snake, a large one, patterned light with regular dark patches down the length of its body, shading from nearly black to light brown.

Slowly, I crouched down.

The snake froze, clearly looking at me. It flicked its tongue once, but otherwise remained still.

“Ah, hello,” I told it in a soft voice, carefully reaching out one hand, letting magic spark low at my fingertips. “Would you be willing to help me, perhaps?”

The tongue flicked again, out-up-down-in, but the snake did not move.

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