A Personal Touch

She lit the flare, and fire danced off the carved dome of the temple. Statues in alcoves hoarded shadows behind them. The empty annex was hollow and quiet.

Sari followed the line of shuffled sand to one of the alcoves. There the pitted statue looked down on her as she inspected the wall behind it. No body, not even a little blood shone in the neon firelight. Sari sighed.

The traps dealt with tourists too arrogant to heed signs. Sari and the other temple guards hauled their bodies into the desert when they found the foreigners crushed, poisoned, and impaled having tried to get into the temple’s lower levels. Sari frowned and checked the mechanism hidden in the wall. Oil coated the stone joint, shining in the flare’s light.

Graverobbers were a different breed. They brought picks, solvents, and hammers. They learned the temple script and traced old histories to map these ancient sacred spots. They looted and stole, selling what they didn’t want to distant museums. Sari had seen them, sterile places which charged her people to view their own possessions.

Sari placed a hand against the right carvings, careful to avoid the plate that would send spikes through her body. The etchings dug into her palm as she applied pressure.

The mechanism snapped. Sari checked her looped hood before standing and turning back to the statue. The stone groaned, only a little sand shifted as the statue slid to reveal a descending staircase. Sari rested her fingers against the hilt of her sword as she descended into the dark. The traps took care of the tourists, graverobbers required a personal touch.

Some thieves are more welcome than others. This week I stole Kit’s first line as part of the Legal Theft Project, where you can see the other thefts. 

 

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Little Sneers

Sour-scented sidewalks and shitty people smoking outside bars.

Fingers to dirty her skin, someone to pant into her neck.

Walking hangovers, trembling hands, the edge of ribs and cheekbones.

Shadows grown beneath her eyes, sallow and smudged.

Little sneers, heavy-lidded in his eyes, on her tongue.

In the narrow bar’s hall, next to the bathroom door.

Aches, needs, rough short fingernails digging into her hips.

No rings, no earnest whispers.

No lies, no like.

Only shared cigarette debts.

I’m trying to move apartments and pass my comps, so things may be sparse the next couple weeks on this blog. Its the reason you got whatever the above was for this weeks Music Challenge. Raw Rambles chose Miss You by Alabama Shakes, and we both wrote something. 

Just Turn It

It was getting irritating, listening to well-meaning statements about what was and was not possible. Cassie groaned as communicatively as she could, her face pressed to upholstery.

“Just turn it, no not that way.” Someone said, maybe her mother, maybe not. Everyone spoke like her mother at this point. Cassie’s fingers started to cramp.

“We should have taken the legs off.” Another said from the other side of the door. They sounded like they had their arms free, liked they were not being slowly accordion crushed by a couch. “I told you. We should have taken the legs off.”

“No, it will work, Cassie come on, just turn it.” The first voice said, they might have been a friend once. Cassie snarled and got a mouthful of stiff cushion in reward. Her legs shook. Her elbows buckled, stretched like suspension bridge wires.

“Ugh, I hate your couch.” Said someone else. Cassie said she, and the couch, hated them back. However, pinned between the door jam and facing death by overpriced Swedish furniture, Cassie didn’t manage anything more than a few syllables.

Another push, more advice, a crack from the door frame. A collective wordless “ooooh” from those who up until a moment ago had been so eloquent. Cassie, still wobbling under the weight, blew a bull’s breath through her nose and shoved. The door cracked but birthed the couch with the slam of wood on cheap flooring.

Cassie straightened and stared down each and every one of them, daring them to speak of the splinters hanging above her. She dusted her hands and set them on her hips. “You’re right. I just needed to turn it.”

A thief? Doubtful, just an angry person forced to move in the middle of the quarter. Anyways, this is technically part of the Legal Theft Project. 

The Court of Thorns

He looked up at the sunless sky and the decision made itself. If he must join the court, Lara could not.

In the ashy gloom of morning, people shifted, slowly removing themselves from the arms of the night’s diversions. Most would retreat to private places amidst the dark boughs in search of true sleep. Head resting against a stocky shoulder, he did not rise, even when the borrowed man moved and deprived him a pillow. Instead, he remained staring into the perpetual gloam while his thoughts wore away at his satisfaction.

He found thorns beneath his plain solution, and he turned it about searching for more. If Lara was not to come to court with him, where should she go? Lara was his changeling, gifted to him as a child, raised as servant and sister. Reprisal came to those who threw away gifts. Still, the courts were treacherous by nature, as were his kind. The intrigues grew twisted like the spines of its namesake. He belonged there, perhaps the captive mortals less so?

It was an odd thought. It arrived as the silent companion from last night found his clothes and shuffled back to whomever the young man was sworn. He breathed out and resumed the glazed staring match with the sky. This was different.

Opinionated and aspiring, Lara might have made a good courtier if she’d been his true kin. Instead, he’d found himself with a terrible changeling. The courts would amuse themselves, Lara would fume and suffer until her disobedience ceased entertaining. Then—he frowned, yes there was that decision again.

He sighed and stretched to his feet, arching his back. The sky grew slowly into a twilight hue as he walked home.

A thief, a scoundrel, a rogue, and it is not just my character. This week’s first line was stolen from More than 1/2 Mad for the Legal Theft Project.

Come Fight

Their laughed fluttered when Bell entered the large solar and choked off when she noticed them. All dipped their heads or turned their eyes, caught, except the delicate Ivanov. The smaller girl met Bell’s eyes.

Outside a training yard, Bell still recognized Ivanov’s brazen look for what it was. An invitation, a taunt. Come fight me.  

Bell shifted her gaze away. Armored in lavender damask, Ivanov and her well-sharpened tongue had bested better than Bell. If the solar were a tourney ring, Bell would not last a round. She suppressed the urge to place her back to the wall.

Chatter swelled again in the solar, rising around Bell but sparing her this time. Politics, people, and plans filled the space between Bell and her opponent. Bell breathed out, staring at the floor. Most in the solar were content to let her edge silently to the door as the conversation turned to the war and its burgeoning industry.

Most. Ivanov’s eyes drove into her spine as Bell escaped out the solar door into the hallway. She fled the house for the courtyard, leaving polite but confused servants in her wake.

Bell knew Ivanov would take the point. The loss stung, losses always did and she’d foolishly walked into this killing ground. If Bell was going to win, she’d need a different battlefield.

Stone and Spoils

Jasper flicked his eyes up from the box, to its seller leaning over the rickety stall and into what Jasper considered sacred personal space. The old man smiled at him, expectant. His teeth reminded Jasper of flint corn, all the kernels a different color.  Jasper kept himself from leaning away. “Too much,” Jasper overly enunciated, his tongue compensating for a clumsy accent.

The seller shrugged and gestured to the steady current of market goers behind Jasper. If he didn’t buy it, another stupid tourist would. Jasper’s features remained in its non-expression. He disliked the association with the frivolous throng.

It took another shopper to break their standoff. The other interested party jostled Jasper’s shoulder in an attempt to peer inside the contentious box. Jasper spine turned to stone at the invasion. “Fine.” Jasper jutted his chin and unrolled waxy currency.

He paid more than he should have for that collection of scrap. But less than he had been willing to, and he comforted himself with that as he hefted the heavy box. Inside, pieces of roughly carved stone and twisted dull metal shifted against one other. Jasper stilled his torso as he walked, hugging his purchase to his chest. Temple artifacts were illegal to sell and therefore taxing to buy. He kept his spoils still. Jasper didn’t want to have to find another vendor, much less deal with one.

A theft most foul, or perhaps a victimless crime? Who knows, I certainly do not. This piece is part of the Legal Theft Project. 

A Fire in Winter

The sputtering fire barely kept the night at bay. As bonfire’s went, it was a depressing one and she’d had to drive two hours for it. Sara shook her head and stared at the coals beneath the pathetic flames. They glowed but lacked the heat required to reach her frozen fingers. This blew.

Someone sat next to her on the damp log. Jake offered her a beer and she shook her head, showing him her red cup.  “I’m good.”

“You look cold.” Jake put an arm around her. With both their winter coats between them, his arm did nothing except annoy her.

“Well, some genius decided to hold a bonfire in winter,” Sara said loudly. A few of the other couples huddling around the fire glared at her over the fire’s lurching light.  She looked back at them flatly. The fire licked up around the pit’s metal rim.

“Surprised you showed up then. Where’s your boyfriend?”

“Kurt’s not my boyfriend. We’re just friends,” Sara said. Jake’s arm pressed down on her spine, overly heavy, forcing her to slump.

“Like you and me are friends?” Jake turned so she could feel his breath in her ear. It was lukewarm and wet. Sara’s throat buckled. The fire hopped up, cracking against the night air. Jake jumped as it bloomed over the pit and Sara took the opportunity to stand.

“You and I are not friends. Any sort of friends.”  She stated, looking down at him. This close to the fire, Sara could have been in a desert. Dry heat comfortably baked her exposed skin. The fire’s roar drowned out the ocean.

Sara blinked. Jake sneered at her and the other couples continued to stare. “Screw this.” Seva stepped over the pitted logs and headed for the distant parking lot, her wide-stride unbalanced in the sand.

Behind her, the fire succumbed to the wind. With one small gust, all that was left was a few smoldering coals.

A thief, but not this week. Instead, I’ve left the first line of this piece for the taking.