Award Winning, Even!
So, this is going to set the bar high for any Third Tuesday Short that follows after, but I thought I’d at least start out strong.
This past Nanowrimo, I decided to write short stories rather than add yet another 50,000 words onto my epic novel. I was in that slump that every writer gets in, where they think that they don’t have any more ideas, and they should just give up. I will say, a 30 day short story challenge did a lot to fire up my imagination.
Anyway, in the middle of that, The Writer’s Guild of Texas had their fall workshop, with a Nano write in afterwards. The goal was to have people learn things at the class before, then write a flash fiction for the annual contest. I know, Nano and editing Do Not Mix, but I really liked the short little piece I wrote during that write in. So, the next day, I cut 500 words, added in some more foreshadowing of the twist ending, cut a character or two, and entered it in the contest.
I won third place.
But what do you care? You just want to read the thing, right? So here it is:
A Dragon’s Hoard
Highwaymen are the most inconsiderate creatures imaginable. I had just settled into a long coze in my carriage, stroking Imaki in my lap, when the shot rang out. I threw up a hand to steady myself against the plunging of the horses. Imaki poked her nose behind the curtain, flaring her wings for balance. She hissed, flame sparking deep in her throat.
“Not safe. Steal the hoard. Thieves.”
I extracted the tiny dragon from the curtain. Her eyes sparked purple fire as she spiraled her serpentine body around my hand.
“Gentle claws, dear. These gloves are the finest Bulgarian lace.”
Smoke curled from one nostril, but her claws uncurled. The carriage jerked to the side. Two more shots. The silence after was the loudest I’d ever heard.
“You in the carriage. Out. Now.” The voice was thick and wind roughened, the accent the curious singsong of the locals.
I tried to force Imaki into my reticule, but her head kept twisting to target the voice outside the carriage. “Dear, get inside, and you can protect it all you want. Just hide, please.”
“Exit now, my darlings, or I’ll have my man start killing.”
Sparks dripped from Imaki’s open mouth, and I squeeked. I shoved two fingers under Imaki’s tail and scraped her off, glove and all, stuffing her into the reticule seconds before the door was ripped open. I yanked at the strings of the purse, hiding the squirming thing in my skirts.
All I could see was the hulking outline of a man, backlit by torches, before he dragged me bodily from the coach. My feet tangled on the steps as if I was just learning to walk on two feet. I hung by my arm, trying to keep the reticule concealed in the folds of my dress.
“What have we here?” The leader was all glittering eyes and a mocking smile. Prey trying to prove it’s a predator. “A girl child barely out of the school room.”
I warmed at the malice in Prey’s tone. Gathering my feet underneath me, I used Giant’s grip to stand. I turned my face to the wind, letting it cool the fire within me.
“My name is Lady Sofia Thistlewhite, and you will address me with proper respect.” I infused the words with generations of pride.
“Oh ho!” Prey bowed, every muscle dripping disdain. “We’ve got a lady in our midst.”
Cruel laughter echoed around me. At least five men, not including Giant and Prey. Two were holding torches, one a brace of pistols. One had my coachman on the ground. I couldn’t see the fifth.
“Your valuables, My Lady, if you please.”
“I do not please.” I was warming up again. “You will have your man unhand me, and you will let me go.”
My trunk crashed to the ground. That’s where the fifth man was. Prey toed at my clothes, lying rather pathetically in the dirt of the road. My reticule whistled. Giant stiffened, but still kept an iron grip on my arm. Worse, the men stilled.
“My Lady.” Prey’s words held quiet menace. “Show me your hands.”
“Not a good idea, even if it were possible.” I twisted my hand in demonstration.
The grip on my arm loosened, and I wrenched away, backing up against the carriage to keep an eye on all the men.
“Show us your hands, dearie,” Giant said. “None of this has to end in violence.”
Smiling, I displayed my left hand, casually tucking my right into the carriage. I bit my lip, nearly chewing straight through. Still, I kept my head held high, and hoped that Imaki would stay quiet for once in her short life.
“Both hands, dearie,” Giant said, tone gentle.
I breathed in, letting the cool, moist air quell the heat rising within me. Both hands, one gloved, one bare, both empty.
“The carriage.” Prey commanded.
Giant reached behind me and fished out the hissing, squirming reticule, holding it by one string.
“What do we have here?”
“Don’t you dare,” I shouted, even as Prey clutched at the bag.
Then he was howling, waving his arm in the air. The flaming remnants of the reticule spun to the dirt. Imaki flapped frantically, but spit fire at Prey again.
“Imaki! That was pure china silk!”
Imaki screeched her defiance. “Took the hoard! Touched the hoard!”
“No more flaming!” I shook my finger directly under her nose.
“What the hell is going on here?” That was Giant. A couple of the others were patting at Marcus’s arm, dousing the fire.
“Never get between a dragon and her hoard.” I fisted my hands on my hips.
“What hoard? She was stuffed in a bag.”
I picked up Imaki’s hoard from the flaming remnants. A single gold sovereign, kept shiny from rubbing against a dragon’s scales. Imaki settled on it immediately, rubbing her chin against the edges and licking away at any dust.
“She’s young. I’m teaching her to control the protectiveness.” I brushed at Imaki’s scales, removing particles of ash.
“That stupid sparkflare!” Prey snatched Imaki away.
Imaki screeched, but she couldn’t turn her head to get a good angle to fire. All the ice I had herded into my veins poured out in a rush. The world became darker and clearer as I felt my eyes change.
“I wouldn’t do that.” Blood dripped from the punctures my nails made in my palms.
“Because she’s a widdle baby?” His hands tightened, and Imaki whimpered, claws flexing.
“No.” I removed my glove. “Because I like this dress.”
I turned on him. What could he see, with the poor light from the torches? Had he seen the my wings beginning to poke out from my shoulder blades? Could he tell that my eyes had gone slitted, emerald fire banked in their depths?
He would be able to see everything soon.
“The coin was Imaki’s hoard.” I raised my head, stretching out my neck and preparing to launch into the sky. “Mine’s Imaki.”