flash fiction by Aaron Rosenberg gryphonrose
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“This is the place?” Nefron demanded, the very air around him crackling with his anger.
“It is, I swear it,” Matthias replied, cowering slightly as the mage swiveled to face him.
“This?” Nefron gestured at the decrepit building before them. Perhaps it had once been impressive, with its two tall stories and round windows, but now the pain was peeling from its stone walls and the roof tiles were chipped and faded. And the windows! Their cracked frames were empty, just gaping holes like mournful eyes, staring down upon the landscape and the men gathered there.
“This is the Beacon Tower? This is the watchpost whose eternal magic lights the heavens, guiding mages safely back from their astral travels? This?” A snort escaped him. “It’s nothing but an empty ruin!”
“This is the tower,” Matthias insisted. “All our research confirms it! The histories give only vague clues as to its location, but we pieced them together! This is it!” He glanced behind him, and his fellow researchers nodded quickly, though he noticed none of them were willing to speak up or step forward. If the mage decided to lash out, it would be Matthias alone who bore the brunt of his rage.
And it looked like that might be the case. The skies above grew darker, clouds swirling down to center over Nefron’s glowering brow, and lightning flashed in his eyes, mirrored by flickers in the heavens above. “For this you waste my time and my gold?” The mage demanded, and Matthias felt a chill. Nefron was no longer shouting. His voice was little more than a dry whisper. And that was all the more terrifying.
“We made no mistake,” Matthias assured him yet again. “I do not know what has happened here, but this is the Tower!”
Nefron stared at him for a second, and when Matthias did not back down the mage finally nodded once. “We shall see.” He turned on his heel and stalked through the crumbling doorway and into the tower.
Matthias hastened to follow. His fellows stayed behind, happy to be out from under Nefron’s gaze, and Matthias laughed bitterly as he left them behind. Cowards! He, for one, had not taken this task simply for gold.
The first floor was a single wide room, the remains of what might have been stout wooden benches and tables moldering off along the sides. A wide staircase led upward, and Nefron was already halfway up by the time Matthias’s eyes had adjusted to the darkness. Then he took to the steps himself. They were heavy stone, at least, the same as the outer walls, and still solid.
The upstairs was a single room as well, high-ceilinged and broad, its corners lost in gloom. A lump along one wall might have been a bed—a table and a single chair still stood against the other. The large windowframe dominated the third, and Nefron advanced toward that now.
“This place reeks,” Matthias heard the mage mutter. “Magic is thick in these walls. But why? To what avail? And if this was the Beacon Tower, where has the beacon gone?” He shook his head. “Feh! Cannot see a thing in this accursed shade! Light!”
A glow rose from his hand, driving away the shadows. And something shook within the walls, the floors, the ceiling—all around them. Matthias stumbled at the top of the stairs, fell, and caught himself against the wall a few steps down.
Then there was an enormous sound, but not a sound—like a massive bell being rung, or a gigantic gong, but the reverberation was inside his head. He dropped to his knees, clutching at his ears as the ringing grew stronger, louder.
Then it stopped, cut off by a single perfect note that hung in the air before fading away.
“What was that?” Pulling himself back to his feet, Matthias glanced over at Nefron. But the mage did not answer him. Not directly.
“What is this?” Nefron was busy asking. He had one hand outstretched, and Matthias saw his fingers were near the windowframe. Only it was empty no longer. A shimmering substance filled it now, and at the mage’s touch it glowed, causing him to snatch his hand back quickly, shaking it as if stung. He tried again, with the same result.
“Matthias!” Nefron shouted, looking toward the researcher. “Come see this! Tell me what it means!”
Matthias eagerly complied—only to be thrown back against the wall again as he tried to step forward and a similar barrier appeared before him.
“No!” Nefron crossed the room in a dozen long strides, and rebounded from the same barrier. “No!” He raised both hands, magic pouring from them—and the barrier absorbed his spell, glowing ever more brightly. The window brightened as well, and now the room was well-lit indeed. Matthias could see the beads of sweat on Nefron’s brow, and the beginnings of terror in the mage’s eyes.
“No,” the mage whispered this time, turning once more toward the window. “I am Nefron of Talencia! Master of all things magical! I conquered the very elements! I will not be trapped!” His hands shone once more, as did his eyes, magic streaming from him—and the room drank it all eagerly. Every surface was now bright as day, and for the first time Matthias realized the ceiling here had a round opening just like the window. Powered by Nefron’s rage and magic, light shone upward through that portal, a thick column that pierced the heavens.
Without a word Matthias turned and headed back down the stairs. The others were gathered a short way beyond the building, staring at it, though their gazes switched to him as he approached.
“The Beacon is lit once more,” he told them simply. Then he walked away without another glance. There was no need. He knew the light would shine for many years to come.
flash fiction by Rabbit (caudelac)
There's a light (Over at the Frankenstein Place)
They'll come all right. They'll come from all over, they can't help
it. A light in a castle on the darkest night draws all the lovely
young things out to play and to frolic and they don't mind what they
pay do they, after it all?
They've been told, yes, they've been told. The fliers went out two
Wednesdays ago when the moon was full, where to come for the vampires,
to meet and dance with the vampires. We sent the pretty-ones (both of
them, the bonny twins) out with the fliers to the clubs to spread
their stories of darkness and lace and old trees and coffins and sex
on black velvet, only come to the castle when the beacon glows
brightly, come o' my children come and be as immortal as we…
And they're already trickling over the hillock, already coming in
their cars or on foot, paired up or all alone in their blacks and
their rags and their delicious, creamy make-ups, drifting imperiously
over the green and under the dying trees, and the wind picks up their
tatters and helps them feel better about themselves, following the
lamplight like the star of the tree-meat desert-brat that none of them
want to worship anyway, though they wear his gibbet about their necks
in curious curly silver talismans. Just in case, of course. As if that
will help them in case "anything happens."
And it will, I promise you, it will.
One of them looks up to the light and sees my face in the darkness-gap
behind the light, spectral hovering and horrid enough to make her
gasp. And she turns to her friend to point! And Look! And her friend
"Oh, that must just be a Nosferatu. We'll just have to keep a look out
for a Toreodor or something…"
And my laugh is like the cry of a wounded wolf, and it shivers their
skin and cuts across their calm as they follow my light and they come
unto the Castle, each by each…
And yet they come, still, still do they come.
If you want to write something to go with this piece, drop me a line at aaronace [at] gmail [dot] com. If you like what you see, please leave a tip for your writers and artist. Enjoy!