This week’s flash fiction challenge had a simple challenge: introduce a dead body in the first paragraph. (read the full challenge at terribleminds.com)
So here goes. This is something of an origin story for a character I created for Regent of Aldun (you know, that first book that’s been started, shelved, restarted, reshelved…). Anyway, it clocks in at just a hair under 1,000 words.
I hope you enjoy.
Amara dropped to her knees. The black sand beneath her glistened in the moonlight, slick with blood. Her blood. She reached down and scooped up the child. Her child. The baby hadn’t even a chance to draw a breath after the bastards cut it out of her. She clutched her still baby to her breast, unable to muster the strength to scream. Tears streamed down her face.
“No one walks away from an obligation to the Guild, love,” Mael Dusombre said. His crew laughed behind him.
Amara rocked her baby. Alone, in the dark, on a beach in the middle of uncharted seas, her child was all that mattered to her. The child they had taken from her. She swooned. Soon the bleeding would take her. A smile crept onto her face. She would be with her daughter shortly.
“Now, love,” Dusombre said, “The boys and I will be going. You be sure and look us up if you’re ever in Admiral’s Folly.”
The chuckling began anew, before the scum crept away to the waiting long boats. She could barely hear the men’s shouts over the roaring in her ears. Soon, she was alone on the beach. She prayed for her end to come quickly.
Amara had once been the pride of the Dusombre shipping operation. At least, their off the books operation. She had guaranteed no other merchant vessels dared sail for the Dusombres’ competition. Whispers abounded in all of the Empire’s ports about a Pirate Queen aboard her black ship.
That was before. Before a night in that seedy tavern in Bayerston. Before she had spent a small fortune on acrid wine. Before she had met a handsome young farmer too far from his homestead.
Before she learned she was to bear that farmer’s child.
Amara had taken her ship and the crew that was loyal to her and fled, knowing the Dusombres wouldn’t allow their Pirate Queen to leave the fold so easily. Now, here she was, waiting for death to claim her on the black isle of Motan Dif.
A howl tore through the darkness, snapping Amara’s fog.
No, she thought, you can’t have her.
Amara forced herself onto shaky knees. She held her baby tight to her chest and made for the cover of the forest. She had to protect her baby.
Just beyond the edge of the sand, amid a thick growth of brush, she spotted the mouth of a cavern. The cave entrance was blacker than the night around it, seeming to absorb the darkness herself.
Another howl. Louder still.
Amara shambled for the safety of the cave. She wouldn’t let the beasts have her baby. She rounded a bend in the black and caught her foot on a rocky outcropping. She rolled to shield the tiny girl from the fall. Her head bounced off the hard cavern floor. Stars exploded across her vision.
As she felt her life slip away, a dim glow from deep within the cave pulled her back to the earth. The glow grew to a steady field of light, blinding against the total darkness. A soft voice came from within.
“And who are you to defile my home?”
Amara squinted against the growing light. She curled tight against her baby, trying to shield her from further harm.
A howl echoed down from the mouth of the cave. The padded thud of the heavy beast running for its prey echoed off the rock walls. Amara had no more strength to run.
She pulled her dagger from her belt, still slick with her own blood.
The beast could not have her daughter. The mass of fur and fangs dove for her. Amara let it take her to the ground, let its own weight drive her blade deep into its chest. The beast let out a moan, then fell silent atop her. The blackness began to fill her vision again. Her strength was finally failing.
“Child,” said the light, “Rise.”
Amara wished the light would leave her in peace. She wanted so bad to be with her baby in The Beyond.
Her sight snapped back into focus. The weight of the great beast was lifted from her and she found herself floating above the floor of the cave. She couldn’t will herself to move. Slowly, she spun toward the light.
A face formed in the brightness. A kind face. A caring face. Amara watched as the face considered her. Then, it turned its attention to her daughter lying on the cave floor.
The tiny form began to rise from the cold rock. It hovered before the form in the light, just out of Amara’s reach.
“Such a tiny thing,” the light said, “Such great sadness.”
The bundle began to float closer to the light. Soon it was engulfed. Gone. Amara tried to scream, tried to leap into the light, but she was held fast.
“I can relieve your pain,” the light said.
Amara stopped her struggle. Her baby was gone. Her chance to be with her, gone as well.
“In vengeance, I can relieve your pain,” the light said.
Fresh pain seared through the gash in Amara’s stomach. Light spilled from the wound. Her screams came, then. The light faded as fast as it had come, Amara was plunged into darkness again. She crumpled to the cave floor.
“You will be my harbinger,” came the voice, from around her and inside her at once, “You will be bear my mark, and carry my vengeance forth into this world.”
Another glow began to fill the cave. Amara looked to her arms, her chest, her stomach and the newly healed scar. Her body was covered with unholy markings, glowing the same dim glow that had filled the cave moments ago.
Amara rose. The markings began to fade as she made for the mouth of the cave. As she stood in the moonlight the markings appeared as little more than tattoos.
Time to find the Dusombres, she thought.