Flash Fiction: “An Old Warrior’s Final Countdown” by Kat Otis
(Originally published at Every Day Fiction.com.)
Ten spiraling stone steps led down to the dungeon. I dashed down them, the flames of the wall sconces wavering with the wind of my passage. Although I still held my sword at the ready, I found no one left to fight. When I reached the bottom, I sheathed my sword and drew my lock-picks instead.
Nine brave warriors had given their lives to get me this far. One by one they had fallen to our enemies’ arrows and bolts, spears and axes, swords and daggers. If the tower had been better defended, we would never have stood a chance. But if the tower had been better defended, more obviously significant, it also wouldn’t have taken us so long to find.
Eight weeks it took, for me to realize this squalid tower on the edge of the king’s lands was the place he had fortified to hold his greatest prize. They were the worst weeks of my life, in which I vacillated between the blackest of rage and despair. Now, I lived with a hope so painful I feared my aging heart might burst.
Kat Otis lives a peripatetic life with a pair of cats who enjoy riding in the car as long as there’s no country music involved. Her fiction has appeared in Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, Daily Science Fiction, and Flash Fiction Online. She can be found at katotis.com or on Twitter as @kat_otis.
Main Story: “A Night For Spirits and Snowflakes” by Aidan Moher
(Originally published in Sword & Laser Anthology.)
The dead man watched with glazed eyes as I dug his grave. My blade bit into the frozen earth. I pulled hard and it came grudgingly free. I struck again and hit a stone — a new dent in the dull sword. I was too cold to feel the shock, too tired to care.
The grave — the first of four — came slowly, revealed one swing at a time.
The forest was still, a twisted play on the chaos that had whipped through the trees just hours before. Those moments of slaughter, that maelstrom of death’s laughter, were over. The only reminder of the battle was me, weary and digging graves for my fallen brothers. It is what my long-dead, never-buried father would have done.
The other bodies, those of the barbarians who had set upon us, could rot — picked clean by howling wolves until they were nothing more than the skeletal remains of fathers, brothers, and sons.
For all I cared, they could feed the spirits of the dead and be forgotten.
Aidan Moher is the author of Tide of Shadows and Other Stories and founder of the Hugo Award-winning A Dribble of Ink. A regular contributor to Tor.com and the Barnes & Noble SF&F Blog, Aidan has written about science fiction and fantasy since 2007. Raised among the selkies and sirens of British Columbia’s Gulf Islands, Aidan now lives with his family in Victoria, BC, where he works as a web developer for the Royal British Columbia Museum. Visit him online at aidanmoher.com and on Twitter at @adribbleofink.
About the Narrators:
Martin Reyto is an educator, writer, and musician. He has worked in an eclectic variety of fields, including 18 years as a technical writer and software developer; 16 years as a teacher of creative writing, computer science, and business communication; and shorter stints as a symphony musician and audiobook narrator. He has published short fiction and two collections of his poetry.
Alex Weinle writes and narrates from a bunker in Fulbourn, an isolated village of cthulian professors. You can find him on Twitter as @alexweinle.