Stories

The Flight

I wrote this short one all in one sitting. I sometimes start writing with a line and see where it takes me. I rarely make it a whole story with no planning, but this is one of those.

I am planning two more to make a kind of a series. More of a triptych for flash fiction. Get some different perspectives on the story.

I hope you enjoy it! Let me know in the comments what you thought.

The blue glow of her hands told me she knew she’d found me at last. The others dining at the inn had all stopped eating and drinking and laughing to look at the newcomer. With the storm picking up, the door blew open with every addition to the crowd but this time their attention was quite thoroughly caught. They didn’t know it was her power that drew them.

I stared too. At first I was stunned by fear and surprise but then I realized I could blend in if I acted as the others. Averting my face would give me away. She didn’t know exactly what I looked like so I just had to hide in plain sight until an opportunity to escape presented itself. Hopefully one would before she clapped the iron around my wrists.

She quickly shoved her hands in her pockets and stepped inside, kicking the door closed behind her. She nodded to a few of those seated closest and slowly people began turning back toward their tables and their companions. But conversation was less lively than it had been before she entered.

She started making her way to a corner table which would afford her a view of the entire room. But to get there, she would have to turn her back to me momentarily.

I waited…and then quickly slid off my bench, changing to a mouse, and started off. I knew the change was risky, she would be able to sense it immediately, but she already knew I was here. If I didn’t get out fast, I might lose my only chance at freedom.

I scrabbled through the rushes on the floor, avoiding puddles of beer and piles muds and worse. When I reached the kitchen I made straight for the back door.

I didn’t know what I was going to do when I got outside though. The storm was growing; a mouse would be blown away in these winds. The safety of the other people would be lost. Human magic lies dormant but the inn provided a low hum of power to hide my signature. Outside I’d be the only source and the only moving being for quite a ways.

Unless…

The forest. If I could make it to the forest I might be able to hide there among the old trees and other creatures who carry the old magic in them. There would be even be more cover than at the inn. It was my only option.

As I leapt out the door I transformed into a fox. I needed to be heavier but fleet of foot. And still small enough to be hard to spot. A charging horse would be far too obvious. If only I hadn’t been branded I could take my true form and she would never be able to catch me.

The storm was picking up even more and I was buffeted time and again, losing my footing and struggling to stay on course.

I flew past cottages and shops. Barns and coops. I was just entering a pasture, the last thing between me and the forest, between me and refuge, when I felt the telltale signs of her on my tail. A weight between the shoulder blades – tingle on my skin. My fur began to stand up on end despite the rain.

She was getting closer.

I was getting tired.

As I neared the fence on the other side it burst into flames. It was an unnatural blue fire not affected by the downpour. I skidded on the wet grass and stopped before getting close enough to singe my whiskers.

I turned and she was standing there. Hands matching the flames and staring at me from under her hood.

She advanced slowly. Confident I couldn’t escape.

“Come with me now and save yourself some trouble.”

I didn’t respond. I looked around desperately, looking for any way out.

“If you come quietly, I won’t bind you completely. It will be less painful that way.”

No, no, no. I couldn’t go back. Partially bound or not, I wouldn’t go back. I’d rather leap in the flames than go back.

I could see no other way. I cowered in my fox form, wishing I could cry like a human.

At the thought I changed again. Still cowering I was now a naked, cold, weeping child. Perhaps I thought the form would make her take pity on me. Not that she’d be able to tell I was weeping in the rain. Or that she had soul enough to care if she could.

“No more tricks,” she said. “Isn’t that how you got into this situation in the first place?”

It was. I used to be a free spirit prancing about and playing tricks on people. Never anything nasty. Just fun. The children were my favorite. They loved my pranks. But one of them told the wrong grown-up and I ended up getting tricked. Trapped in an iron cage, unable to get free. Then branded and unable to take my true form.

It was one of those children who had helped me escape. Surely it would be said that I tricked him but that wasn’t the case. The innocence of childhood had won and he’d opened my cage willingly. I hoped to someday repay his kindness.

But I’d never be able to do that if this woman, this bounty hunter, this abomination caught me now.

Normally, I can only change into creatures I’ve seen personally, and in my weakened state I can only keep small or simple forms for any length of time. A small human was even tricky. But the wizard who’d captured me kept many interesting books laying about and I hadn’t had much else to do with my time.

So now, fueled by my fear and desperation and rage, I called upon every ounce of power I possessed. I called out to the forest, so close I could smell the musty, leaf-covered floor, and I transformed…

Into a dragon.

I towered over her, stretching as tall as the trees behind me. My wings flapped once and extinguished the unnatural blue fire. I let out a bellow and spewed forth my own conflagration.

She staggered back. There was no way she could have expected this change. I couldn’t keep it long so I had to take advantage of her surprise.

I scooped her up and flew high into the storm clouds. We whipped past lighting and were pelted by hail. Up and up I rose. The air chilled and we broke through.

Above the storm we could see the stars. For the briefest of moments the two of us were connected as we admired the view. Then a boom of thunder from below reminded us of our battle and I looked down at her, clenched in my claws.

She was struggling, trying to muscle one of my fingers open. I laughed and it came out as a terrible rumble, deeper and darker than the thunder clouds we soared above.

She looked up and realization dawned.

I opened my hand.

As she slipped from my grasp I lost the power I’d been holding. The dragon form stuttered and vanished. I began to fall.

Normally, in such a case I would take my true form but that option wasn’t open to me so I took the only form my remaining energy level would allow. An ant.

I lost consciousness as I entered the clouds. I tried to appreciate the brilliant jeweled sky one more time before I was forced into darkness.

I awoke in the morning, still an ant but also still alive.

I tentatively changed to a sparrow and flew quickly to the safety of the trees. I saw no sign of her but that didn’t tell me anything.

She was one of my kind. A cousin of sorts. She could have had a trick of her own to survive the fall. But I knew I wouldn’t be seeing her again. And she wouldn’t go back to the wizard without me.

I chirped contently and flew deeper into the forest. My kind has the ability to heal most wounds. With a great deal of time, my brand would be gone and I could resume my true form. And then, I had a boy to find.

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