Your hands are a coffin. Smooth as polished cyprus, strength in every knot and plane.  They keep me trapped and breathless within.

Their eyes are serum. Lapis lazuli and drunken lidded, mawkish in my gaze and on my tongue. They soothe and enable the heat of my skin.

I am brimstone. Buried by you and burning for them.

I am an acrobat, feet on the ground.

I blame Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie and their Wordle Prompts for this unusual post. I will return to my normally scheduled fiction after Thanksgiving. 

Legal Theft: Puzzles

As far as lunatic schemes went, this was the best he had ever conjured, and they both knew it.

“Excellent” Jeth said, clapping Valen on the shoulder.

“Brilliant.” Valen agreed. The two exchanged grins.

Valen retrieved a heavy bottle from the room’s oak cabinets and filled three long stemmed glasses with wine. The first he kept, the second was pressed into Jeth’s eager hand. The third glass he set on the desk where their strange young friend stood, hovering over notes and stolen blueprints.

“Leon.” Valen said. He edged the wine closer into his friend’s vision. “That is my father’s best vintage. You figured it out, celebrate.”

Leon picked up the glass of wine and took an appreciative sip. “I figured how to get in, not out.” His green eyes remained on the spread of paper over the desk. Half the maps were rotted away, ancient and water damaged. The other materials were new, freshly freed from shelves and drawers.

Jeth groaned. “Don’t tell me that Valen’s work ethic has finally rubbed off on you, you’ve been spending too much time together.”

In the dim of the study Valen’s sudden flush went mostly unnoticed.

Leon shrugged, “I like puzzles. When you can provide more entertainment than one, perhaps, I’ll afford you more of my attention.” He didn’t have to turn from his work to see if his barb caught. Jeth’s affronted huff was followed by a short laugh from Valen.

The two gentlemen exchanged another look behind Leon’s back. In the capitol to attend school, their new mastermind was the youngest son of some far-off middling nobility. Questioned about his home, Leon had assured them the wealthy, if obscure, province his family governed was overwhelmingly dull.

No one pressed long, wherever he’d come from, Leon had taken to the capitol intrigues with effortless skill and no ambition to speak of. That unique combination made him a particularly valuable friend for the young and enterprising.

More than a few were suspicious of the oft smirking but soft spoken youth, but this was the capitol, if you weren’t suspicious you were an idiot. After a few successful plots, everyone agreed that Valen had done well bringing Leon into their circle.

Jeth set his now empty glass down on the desk. “Well, I have better things to do than watch him think. Let me know when we get to pull this off.” Jeth waved, back already turned and walking. Before Valen could say anything Jeth had disappeared into the hallway.

“He doesn’t.” Leon commented once the study’s door had clicked shut.

“Hm?” Valen hadn’t been paying attention, worried about someone seeing his friend leave. If Valen’s father knew his least favorite son was sneaking around his study, they’d never get the chance to try Leon’s scheme.

“Have something better to do.”  Leon smirked and folded one of the notebooks closed. “He doesn’t, we’re just boring.”

“Not all of us are as perpetually amused as you are. This is business, our futures, not a game.” Valen said with a breath.

Leon’s sideways look over his wine glass was all the disagreement Valen needed to see. “I’m serious.” Valen said.

“So serious.” Leon agreed this time, finally turning from the maps, dockets, and plans. “How bad is it if we get caught in here?”

Valen paled at the thought. “Indescribably.”

Leon nodded and began packing up his work. The ancient weather pages were tucked back in their protective holdings and shut away in the desk drawers and cabinets. The newer blueprints were delicately folded and the dockets were closed. Valen watched the meticulous care Leon put into leaving even the dust on the shelves undisturbed as he returned the materials. “What about your puzzle?” Valen asked, remembering Leon’s farewell to Jeth.

“I said I’d abandon it for something more entertaining.” Even crouched and halfway through locking a drawer back up, Leon managed a suggestive look.

This time Valen’s flush was noticed. Leon laughed and moved to help him pick up the wine and glasses

No one should expect punctuality from a thief, we’d be in different lines of work otherwise. This particular theft was late, but check out the Legal Theft Project and the originator of the line, Apprentice, Never Master, anyway. 

Flash Ficton: Old Sideways Eyes

This small piece is an attempt at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie‘s Music Challenge. 

Preachers don’t stay long in the town of Ailey.

They come in often enough, shirts wrinkled from travel but cleaner than we can ever get ours. Hellfire drips from their tongues. Stray from drink, from women, from money, lest you meet the smiling man with hooves. He’ll turn you with bright words, the clean men say.

We don’t listen much to the preacher men. Our butcher knows how to cut a pig, the midwife the way to bring babies whole into this world, and the robbers on the east road know how to take. Men should know their professions, but Ailey’s never known preacher who’s met the devil.

Our devil doesn’t wait at our crossroads the way he seems to haunt others. No, Ailey knows where the devil waits. He’s in the man who runs to the road with a wife and newborn at home. He’s in the woman who eyes her baby’s cradle after her man has gone and left. He’s in the child who thrashes the dog because there’s no one else to beat.

He keeps until deep winter to claw the door, gnawing on the bandit’s stomach and speaking lonely poison to young hearts. The devil informs them their due, and waits patient as time for them to take it.

In Ailey, we know the devil, he hollers and scratches and promises. You do your best to pay him no mind and continue your business as you’re able.

Old sideways eyes has been around since man was made, no church man is gonna get rid of him with clean shirts and a sermon. The preachers learn that quick in Ailey. Sooner more than later, the devil starts murmuring in their ears too and they move their hellfire elsewhere. Some men can’t stomach meeting the devil, too scared they’ll start listening to him.

Legal Theft: The Best Kind of Friend

A firm hand drew the decanter away from him. Teni looked up, ready to protest. He stopped when he saw her.

He smiled slow, taking in clinging skirts and sand colored eyes. Sparkling rings adorned the fingers that held the decanter. “Aren’t you supposed to bring me drinks, not take them away?” Teni set his still empty glass down on the table and twitched his fingers towards her.

The beads on her shawl clicked as she moved to his summons.  A light zephyr of sandlewood perfume muddled his head as she bent over his shoulder. “My prince.” She purred, the decanter held at her side.

“What’s your name?” He didn’t recognize her; maybe she was new in the dancing hall.

She did not answer at first, as if actually considering not telling him. “Isra.”

He leaned his head back, enjoying the view of her slender throat. “And why did you take my drink away Isra? That was a gift.” Teni looked around wondering where the bartender had gone, if this minx was going to steal his drink he’d want another.

“From who?” Isra’s lips were the color of dark cherries, and she cocked her head giving him a better view of them and her sand colored eyes. That fact alone almost distracted him from the fact she’d not explained herself. Teni didn’t answer his question, but reached around her to grab at the decanter.

Isra didn’t let him. She stepped back with a slow roll of her hips, now an arms pace away. “My prince, which man?” Her voice was insistent and had lost its breathy quality.

Teni didn’t approve of the change, or the blatant defiance. She obviously knew who he was and there was no reason a serving girl would act like this. He stood, pushing back his chair deliberately. “Is this a game?” He asked, giving her a chance to turn coy before he got angry.

There was a moment of deliberation before she sighed, the tension vanishing from her spine. Isra crossed the distance between them and hips moving as she walked. She smiled up at him and placed a finger on his chest, close enough again that her earthy perfume filled his nose. “Not a game. I wouldn’t dare, but please my prince, which man gifted you the drink?”

This close, nearly pressed to him, it took a moment to remember the decanter she’d taken from him. “He was in the corner, young with a deep red cloak, scarred hands.” Teni tore his eyes from her and looked around the dance hall. The man was gone now, his table empty. “Why?”

“He is not your friend.” Isra said simply. Teni wrapped his hand around her side before she could step away.

“And what about you?” Teni leaned down, still holding her tightly to him. Whoever she was, he was curious now. “Are you my friend?”

Some women froze when he did this, unsure if they could refuse. Others would melt against his chest and stare up at him with liquid eyes. Isra just looked at him calmly, lips quirked as if he was doing something amusing.

“Of course my prince. The best kind of friend.”

She jabbed her fingers hard into his side and twisted out of his grasp when it loosed. He grunted, more in surprise than anything else as she stepped away. “Take no more drinks from strangers.” She ordered.

Before he could demand she stay, or command someone to grab her, Isra was out the front door and running, the full decanter still in her hand.


Javid found Isra eyeing the marketplace street with narrowed eyes and flared nostrils. He didn’t bother scanning the crowd. If their target was here, Isra would have moved. “He have a description?”

“Scarred hands and young. Red cloak, but that will be gotten rid of by now.” Isra reported, sand colored eyes still on the bustling marketplace. She’d found a cloak somewhere, brown and simple, to cover her dance hall scarves.

“Good. We’ll find him.” Javid said. “Our prince is lucky you didn’t let him have a drink. I would have been tempted.”

She quirked her lips at him, deciding it was best not to comment on that. “Come on. Let’s check the docks.”

I really shouldn’t be surprised, considering the riffraff I associate with, but I’ve been stolen from. My first line was taken, and you can see what’s been done with my property at the Legal Theft Project

Sleeping next to Strangers

Caroline’s roommate was awake. It was just one of those things she could sense, the other girls breathing wasn’t deep enough and the soft shifts of sheet and pillow were too deliberate. Caroline rolled over. “Paige?”

Paige shifted, messy brown braid falling over her shoulder. “Hmm?”

“Can’t sleep?” Caroline asked. The only illumination came from the red numbers of the digital clock.

“Just thinking.” Paige said softly. She bent her arm and rested her cheek in its crook so the two roommates faced each other over the spaces of their beds.

“What about?” Caroline smiled. The first week of college had been, as promised, a mix of exciting and terrifying new experiences. One of which was living with a complete stranger. They’d gotten on well so far but Caroline still didn’t know much about the doe-eyed girl who shared her tiny dorm room.

“I don’t know. Weird stuff.”

“Probably not that weird.” Caroline offered. Staying up late whispering to roommates was one of the college experiences she’d been assured. “Being away from home makes you think, what sort of weird?”

There was a long moment of silence before Paige spoke. “Are you sure you want to know?”

Caroline nodded emphatically, cheek sliding against her pillow. “We’re roommates.”

Another long pause. “I was wondering what it usually takes for someone to murder someone else.” Paige finally said.

Caroline frowned, sure she’d misheard the other girl. “What?”

“I told you it was weird.” Paige said.

Caroline could not quite see what her expression looked like in the dim crimson light. “Um… like how much money it would take?” The question was a half formed attempt to make sense of the odd answer.

Paige shrugged her shoulders, voice serene. “If money is what was needed. I was thinking how weird it is, that most people are murdered by people they know, that it’s normally not about money.”

“What is it usually about?” Caroline asked before she thought about it.

“Passion.” In the dark red of the dorm room her roommate’s eyed looked shone like pools of liquid.

“Um…yah.” Caroline swallowed. She kicked off her blanket suddenly feeling claustrophobic. This was not the bonding time she’d hoped for. “That is kind of strange I guess. Never thought about it.” She said finally, not keeping all the scorn from her voice.

Paige shrugged again and yawned. “I just thought it was odd. Remember to turn your hair straightener off tomorrow okay? You left it on this morning.” Paige turned around in bed settling into the blankets as if murder had not just been discussed.

Caroline was acutely aware of her own breathing as she stared at her roommate’s back.  She forced herself to turn around as well. Closing her eyes against the dark she wondered who exactly the university had paired her with.

Caroline lasted only a couple minutes like that, unable to quell the itch between her shoulder blades. She twisted back so that she had full view of her now slumbering roommate. Caroline let out a long breath, this was going to be a long semester.

Legal Theft: Ash and Water

The last thread of humanity broke and he collapsed into the explosion of power. The blast rushed outward from the circle rending shriveled little souls from beautifully robed bones. All those that had gathered around him perished. Their sinews of soul, muscle, and ambition fell unwoven and broken on the gilded marked floors.

His power did not pause as it stampeded from the lower chambers. It coursed past the wards and into the ground floor where maids dusted and cooks prepared luncheon. The air grew stale in its wake, a too subtle warning before the wave crashed over the house.


In the gardens a sister followed her brother through hedges and under dappled sunlight. The two children slipped between verdant barriers searching for a place to hide their spoils.

Silver ringed sapphires and ropes of pearls overflowed in the boy’s hands. He shared a grin with his sister, this would show them. Months away from the house their parents still only had eyes for strange robed visitors and the whispers beneath the house floors. This would make them pay attention.

It did not take them long to bury their stolen treasure and emerge onto the green with dirt under their fingernails. The afternoon was bright and late summer left the gardens swollen with life. The brother frowned as they strolled along the pond’s shore. No one had come after them yet.

The sister turned towards the house, there was something in the air. The taste of ash dried her throat.

I stole the first line of this piece for the Legal Theft Project. Check out the original line over at The Gate in the Wood.


For the first time in almost two years he had a normal bed. There were sheets, two of them, and pillow cases that matched them. The comforter was down, rendering the extra blanket pleasant but unnecessary. The set-up here beat the hell out of RV bunk beds and the occasional appropriated couch cushion he’d been used to before.

He turned over, tangling the already twisted nest of bedding. Across the room and fast asleep his sister seemed to be taking the change alright. Though, she might just be better at faking it than he was, it was a possibility he’d not ruled out.

“Lore.” He said in her direction. She didn’t answer. “Loorrre.”

Nothing, either she was really asleep or simply refusing to be bothered. He sat up with a groan and extricated himself from the overwhelming amount of sheets. Tomorrow was going to be another haze of caffeine.

He dug around in his duffel bag pulling out the pack of cigarettes he’d managed to pull from an arbitrary pocket at the airport. As vices went, his find was pretty tame but he was facing down a third sleepless night. He needed something to do.

With an itch growing between his shoulder blades he padded over to the window, cigarettes and lighter in hand. Wearing only a thin tshirt and sweatpants he almost gasped when the wind hit him. Still he gritted his teeth and ducked through the second story window, crawling barefoot over the roof.

The cold wasn’t terrible once he found a decent perch. This far from any real civilization the stars were more than enough to see by. He was even able to shield a spark long enough to light one of the four cigarettes left in the box.

With the foul tasting smoke in his lungs and vantage point gained, he took the opportunity to look around. His uncle’s house was tucked deep in the forest, and it definitely had that slasher movie lodge vibe. But he’d found, with proper application of coffee and soda, it wasn’t that bad.

This place wasn’t going to be a problem. He was. After seventy two hours of doing nothing but sulk and attempt to be relatively well behaved, he was already cracking. He didn’t even like cigarettes, but this place just seemed…normal. It was driving him crazy.

He took a long drag, crossing his eyes to watch the orange embers. The only odd thing so far was how chill his uncle was. So far the two siblings hadn’t managed to faze their father’s brother and he was oh so curious what would finally do it. Smoking on the roof? The first time he or his sister slipped up and nicked something? He didn’t know what it would be, but he was sure it was going to happen.

The wind picked up again and he shivered. Going back inside wasn’t an option yet. His sister would eviscerate him if he got smoke anywhere near her clothes.

He stood up, biting the cigarette to keep his hands free. There might be better place to waste away the night. The roof was large and between the moonlight and the stars he had light to explore. That was until something, just as he moved to take a step, blotted out the night sky. He whipped his eyes upward.

It was gone. Every constellation was in place, but he swore, for a moment the stars had not been there. It was like the sky blinked.

He frowned and took a step back. When his barefoot crushed the cigarette box he realized his mistake. The plastic wrapped paper slipped beneath him, sending him backwards into a stumble. The lip of the roof caught his ankle and he was falling. For an agonizingly long second he contemplated how embarrassing falling off a roof was. Then he hit the ground.

His breath left his body as his vision popped with artificial stars. Then everything blinked out again.