Tag Archives: rebellion

Challenge: Legal Theft: Goodbye (355 words)

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Turning away from the door, Kadelyn heard Noach shift as well, and realized he was watching her.  Kadelyn didn’t want to look at him.  She remained by the door with her head bowed.  He didn’t say anything.  She did not hear another whisper of linen that would have meant that he was approaching—or, she supposed, it could mean that he was moving away.  He did neither.  And she didn’t move either.

“It’s done,” she said because he deserved a report.

Still he didn’t move, didn’t say anything.

“You shouldn’t be here,” she said.

“We could have figured it out,” he groaned.

“This was easier.”

“Easier?” he yelped.

Kadelyn flinched.  “Noach, please.”  The shout could attract one of the guards.  She couldn’t stay now.  She had to go.  Whatever future they could have had together now was—

“Kadelyn,” he groaned.  “Do I really mean so little to you?”

“Noach, it’s not that—”

His boots were thunder on the floorboards.  Kadelyn covered her face with a gasp as the sting struck her behind her eyes.  She bit her lip as his hands snared her arms.  “Kadelyn, I love you.  I still love you.”

“And I love you,” she rasped.

“But you gave me up.”

She lowered her hands to meet his through the wash of tears.  “I did what I had to.  Noach, I have to go.”

“I can’t let you,” he complained.

“They’ll kill me if they find me.”

“Do they know it was you?” he worried.

“They will.  I can’t hide this forever.”

“Then,” Noach said, and he took a shaking breath.  “We’ll run.”

“No,” Kadelyn argued.  “I run.”

“You can’t run alone.  You can’t hunt, can’t talk your way into a drink, haven’t got a horse.”

“You haven’t got a horse either.”

“You’ve committed treason.  You think we’re above horse thievery?”

“That’s different.”

“If the theft of one horse is what it takes to be with you, Kadelyn, I’ll steal the king’s horse.”

Kadelyn covered a smile with a dainty hand.  “The king,” she reminded him, “won’t miss it.”

I’m a thief!  I stole this first line from “Her Vice” written by Gwen at Apprentice, Never Master.  I admit that I knew that these two were a couple.  That might’ve influenced my story a bit.  Plus it’s Valentine’s Day!  Looks like I just missed the midnight deadline.  Somehow I still ended up at rebellion and coup.

Challenge: Legal Theft: Passing of the Torch (292 words)

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He put an arm around her shoulder and pulled her over so that she rested against his side, her head on his shoulder.  She had always shied from displays of affection, more likely to push him away, sometimes with a laugh or a smile, sometimes with a frown or a growl, than to let him hold her.  Her head now rested comfortably against his shoulder.  She didn’t complain, and she didn’t fuss.  He turned his head to hide his face amid the cloud of her hair, warm with the heat of her body, smelling of her and the shampoo that she used.

Her hand when he took it in his was cold.  His tears, the sob on which he gagged was hot.  Her name was mangled by that sob, and he choked back any more words, because mangled words wouldn’t suit her, never could suit her.

She had been the speaker he never had been.

Now the burden of her words would fall to him.

But tonight was not for words.  Tonight was for mourning the woman in his arms.

Tomorrow would be for words, words to incite the rebellion, to chisel the bedrock of the society that had done this to her.

Tomorrow would be for following her.

And if he didn’t follow her tomorrow into the chill, numb place to which she had descended, he would wake up the next day, and he would continue to spread her story, to fan the flames that would destroy the Waykeepers.  He would wake each morning with his heart and his words aflame till he followed her.

He laid her body down on the concrete and stepped back.  He looked down at her.  And he called for oil.  He called for a flame.

Done so much earlier than midnight, and I bet that wasn’t you were expecting, Bek!  I thieved this first line from Bek of BuildingADoor.  Check out her blog tomorrow for the original story that she wrote beginning with this same line.

Challenge: Legal Theft: Bottled (591 words)

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She nodded at her brother, stepped out of the circle, and did not look back.  She could not let personal concerns or social connections cloud her purpose.  She had to be driven, single-minded, intent.

Her steps crunched over the dead leaf litter of the forest.  The darkness was chill as it wrapped her in its folds.  The leafy branches that she pushed aside were dew-drenched.  She focused on these things because they were easier to focus on than what awaited, what she had left: the closeness of a circle of friends, alike in their minds and hearts in a way that it had taken her years to find, even though she counted her brother among that group.

They were the best friends that she could hope for.  And she was unsurprised to that tears stung her eyes.

If this went wrong—  Even if it didn’t—

She broke from the forest’s cover and looked across the sloped, green grounds towards the castle on its high, natural pedestal of red stone.

She paused for only one fortifying breath before she set her slippered feet into the wet grass.

She kept her eyes ahead, on the glowing windows of the castle, one in particular, the highest in the highest tower.

He would be there, watching the world like an eagle in its eyrie, lord of all he saw, and predator to all of it too.  If he should see her—  But he knew nothing of their plot.  He would assume she was out for a stroll.  He would assume she had been summoned to a lover’s tryst.

At the entrance to his tower room, she paused and touched her fingers to the corked bottle in the secret pocket of her dress, hidden where none would dare look, discreetly, as if she was straightening her front.

He turned towards the door when she pushed it open.  He smiled at her, bright and warm, and his eyes traveled from her face to crown to toe.  “Your shoes are wet from the grass, my Mel.  What took you to the grounds at this late hour?”

He did not wait for a response, but said, “Take them off, child.  You’ll catch a chill.  Put them by my fire to dry,” he added, indicating the hearth with a sweep of his pale hand.

She obliged him without protest, took the moment to check again for the bottle.

Now that she stood before him, her fingers trembled touching the cork.

He was beside her when she straightened from setting down the shoes.  He slipped a hand around her waist, and she let him draw her in for an embrace.  She allowed him to kiss her cheek, hoped that the  leaves’ dew-fall had washed away enough salt that he wouldn’t taste her tears, trying to enjoy how gentle he could be, trying to remember how cold and how hard he could be too, remembering the children’s cries as the horsemen had run them down, the wails of those whose houses had been burnt along with them, the shrieks of those who felt the torch, remembering the sounds of breaking bones, and his laughter over all.

“Where is your brother tonight?” he wondered.

“Abed already after the hard day of training.”

“Your brother trains well,” he agreed.

She nodded.

“Come, Mel,” he said, and he drew her to a chair by the fireside.  He sat down in the chair beside hers.  “Share my cup with me,” he said, pouring two goblets of dark red wine, “and tell your father of your day.”

Whoops.  I lost track of the time while cleaning my apartment.

This is the second of Kate Kearney’s lines that has become a piece for me about assassins.  I’m not sure what that says about me or her or us.  Check out More Than 1/2 Mad for Kate’s original piece, “Blood and Raisins,” using this line of hers that I thieved.

Challenge: Legal Theft: Hours Till Dawn (767 words)

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Aaron was not getting much sleep.  He was staring instead at the page, at the abstract scratches of ink without the scratches resolving into letters let alone words let alone ideas.  He knew he should sleep, but the answer had to be here, and the answer was more important than sleep.  Sleep was a personal concern.  The answer he sought would change the fate of the city, the world, would drag both back from the perilous cliff by which they now teetered.  His need for sleep was a side effect of his mortality, his humanity, a weakness.  If he found the answer he would be propelled to legend or godhood, a hero of the old stories, defeating the same newly arisen enemy that the heroes had felled.

He had been reading the dusty pages of the underground library for seven days.  At first, he had allowed himself time to step out into the sunshine.  He had allowed himself to leave for meals.  He had allowed himself to go to his bed each night and lie down with his head on the downy pillow that he had finally earned after years of poor wages and drudgery.

For three days now, now that the deadline loomed at the edge of the dawn, the end of the night, time had been marked only by the number of candles he had had to replace and the occasional appearance of a mousy servant who left him platters of bread, cheese, a bowl of soup, tankards of weak ale.  She had last come in six hours ago according to the candles.  His stomach was starting to feel hollow and empty—like his head—like these pages.

Aaron groaned and let his useless head fall into his useless hands, blocking out the senseless pen scratches, the dim candlelight, the passing of the hours, the coming end of the world.

She was there when he woke.  The tray was beside him.  The soup was no longer steaming.  She was seated across from him on a stool.  She had a ragged piece of old vellum in her hands.

“What’re you doing?” he sputtered.

“Wondering what you’re looking for.”  Her voice was warm and had a pleasant, cultured accent.  Aaron was surprised.

“Give that to me,” Aaron snapped, thrusting out his hand.

“What does it mean,” she wondered, “ ‘pain or disorientation is most efficacious’?”

“What?” Aaron stammered.

She showed him the paper, pointing to a line of the text.  “Here.  ‘In weakening the Vatrin, pain or disorientation is most efficacious, resulting in the division of the Vatrin’s Energies—’ ”

“Give it,” Aaron demanded, and she did, and he read the line again.  “This is it,” he breathed.

“What?”

“It’s—well, maybe not the answer but an answer certainly.  It gives us a way to weaken them if not a means of doing so.”

“Who?”

“You don’t know?”

“Apparently not.”  She threw a fist to a cocked hip and slid herself half onto the table.  “So tell me.”

Aaron hesitated but shook his head.  “It’s not my place to be filling your head.”

“I filled your hands with that paper,” she said, nodding towards it.  “That’s what you’ve been looking for these days?”

Aaron frowned.  It was at least part of what he had been looking for, but that was no reason for him to tell her that tomorrow the sun might set on red earth and the empty ribcage of a city, home to naught but scavenger crows and dogs.

He looked at her, rosy-cheeked, her eyes glittering.  He imagined her gray and her eyes shuttered.  It could be that she would look like that by morning if the stories were to be believed, if the man descended with his army on the city as he had promised.

“What time is it?” he wondered, starting.  He should have asked that first.

“I was about to go to bed.  It’s past midnight.”

“How many hours?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe one.  Maybe two.”

“Four or five hours till the end then,” he breathed, “and we’ve only part of an answer.”  He looked up at her again, saw her alive, young, bright as the candle flame, sparkling as sunshine on the ever moving ocean.  “Stay with me,” he said.

She glowered.  “And what?”

“Just stay,” he begged.  “If these are our last hours, I don’t want to be alone.”  He gestured to the papers.  “And maybe you can help me find a way to fight spook tales monsters.”

Her frown deepened but softened.  “I’ll need more than that to help.  And that best not be a euphemism.”

“It’s not.”

I am a thief!  And I am late.  I stole the first line of this story from Kate Kearney’s “Countdown to Burnout,” and she beat me to posting the story, but I have not yet read it, as per the rules of legal thefting.  Check out what she wrote on her blog More Than 1/2 Mad–and I will do the same.  All legal theft pieces are collected by our thief lord here.

Challenge: Legal Theft: Stand Like a Woman (661 words)

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Before you begin reading, know that I feel a PG-13 rating is in order.

Sliding into a cocky pose, she cracked the whip over with a smooth flick, “Kneel before your goddess!”

The lash stopped just short of his face, just near enough for him to feel the whisper of its passing and for the percussion of its snap to rattle the drums of his ears, to hurt almost as if the lash had connected.  “You’re no goddess of mine,” he spat.

“Of course, I’m not.  I meant the statue.”  She gestured behind her to the small, bronze model in its niche, a nude woman, arms outstretched and an expression of white fury on her face.

“I’ll kneel before no statue.”

Her head cocked like an eagle’s.  The space of one nod was all it took for him to feel rough hands on his shoulders, pressing against his joints, and painfully pressing him to his knees.

“Better,” she said, and to her associates, “Hold him there.  I don’t like people—particularly men—disrespecting the Mother.  We can talk from here or we can talk while you’re chained to the dungeon ceiling, Kayle.  If we speak in this comfort, you respect the goddess.”

“It’s to the dungeon you’ll send me anyway, Lissa.  Call off your hounds, and let me stand like a man.”

“Men don’t stand in the Mother’s presence.  If you stand, you stand like a woman.”

“Then let me stand like a woman.”

She regarded him again with that bird-bright stare.  A second nod allowed him to throw off her women and rise.  He crossed his arms over his chest.

“That’s quite an allowance from you,” Lissa said.

“And from you.  You know me for what I am.”

“It sounds as if you might yet bend to a woman’s authority and the Mother’s power.”

“I recognize when I have lost the upper hand.  It doesn’t mean that I can’t regain it.”

“Do you want to speak again from your knees, Kayle?”

“I’m perfectly comfortable.  Tell me why you’ve had me brought here, woman.”

Lissa moved with grace and ease.  She wore her femininity bared as the goddess did.  Even though he despised her, it made her difficult to ignore and difficult for him to concentrate.  The whip that she allowed to trail behind her was another distraction.  He knew the sting of whips, and this one was thick, barbed, and potentially lethal.  He wondered why she carried it.  He did not know the texts sacred to the Mother and did not know if it was in some way a symbol of the Mother’s power or merely Lissa’s.  She seated herself on the throne, softened with drapery and a cushion for her bare bottom, and she regarded him.

“You’ve come to surrender and pledge your allegiance to the Mother or die, Kayle.”

“You’ll have to kill me, Lissa.  I won’t bend to your Mother.”

“The Mother is a kind woman, Kayle.  She can forgive you, and she can protect you.”

“If I stumble on my knees and kiss her bare breasts.”

Lissa smiled.  The whip slid lazily across the floor toward him, an annoyed cat’s tail, a warning with no snap.  “The Mother asks for no such show.”

“But I cannot stand in her presence as a man?”

“You might if you first show her the respect she deserves.”

“She deserves none.  She is a product of your imagination.”

“And I believe your god to be a product of your imagination, but you would have me worship him.”

“Norhad is the Master of All, you and your women, me and my men, each creature on land or beneath it, in the sea, or in the air.  He gave you the imagination that conjured your Mother.”

“I don’t believe that.”

“It doesn’t matter what you believe.”

“Sadly, it matters to the Mother what you believe.  Will you yield, Kayle?  Will you reject your god and accept the Mother?  Or do you choose to die before her?  One more showing of the stubbornness and stupidity of men?”

I am a thief!  I stole this first line from The Babbling Buzzard.  Check back tomorrow for the link to her original piece using this line.  I know I’m interested to see what she did with it.

All legal theft pieces will be collected will be posted by the thief lord here.

I also want to say that I don’t much stand for this brand for feminism.  I won’t try to explain the way the that characters run out of control–not here.

Challenge: Legal Theft: The Shadows in the Darkness (776 words)

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The skull smashed to the ground like a Ming Dynasty funerary urn under a barbarian invader’s boot.

Sharon drew in a sharp breath, lowered the candle in her flame, and looked down at its cracked jaw, hanging awkwardly from one hinge.  She moved farther away from the crypt wall.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

Sharon hoped that wouldn’t curse her.

The ancient bones nested too precariously in their niches and nets of dust, and she could not afford to anger the spirits of the dead anymore.

She pressed on down the dark tunnel.  What more could she do?  They were waiting for her, and she couldn’t be late.

She heard them before she saw them, before she saw the dim glow of their lanterns and candles.  She heard the thrum of their voices.  They echoed in the stone tunnels.  One or two chanted their prayers as they waited, preparing themselves.  Several whispered conspiratorially.  Marilyn tittered nervously.

She walked into the puddle of their firelight, deposited her own candle on the floor.

They greeted her with tight smiles.  Adam in his prayers nodded to her with pausing for breath.  Robert was too lost in the prayer, eyes shut, rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet, to notice her.  Their leader beckoned her over.

“Are you ready?” Charlene asked.  Charlene was dressed in leathers, her hood drawn up to hide her red curls.

“I’m ready,” Sharon confirmed.  She didn’t mentioned the skull that she had broken on the way.  It was a bad omen.  Their mission could afford no bad omens.  She hoped it boded poorly only for her and not for the group.  Her own misfortune she could take.  A misfortune that befell her friends, further wounded the city, she could not withstand.

Charlene grasped her arm, smiling at her, then glanced back at Adam and Robert.  “We will need the god tonight if we are to succeed,” she muttered.  “Have you prayed?”

“I’ve prayed.”  To the goddess she had prayed, the goddess of the night who could cloak her in stealth.  She had prayed before she’d left.  She had broken the skull.

“You look ill,” Marilyn said.  “What’s wrong?”

“We’re going to kill the governor.”

“You have to stomach it, Sharon,” Charlene warned.  “We’re counting on you.”

“I know.”

“Can you do it?”

“He must die.”

“But can you do it?”

“I must try.”

“Then we go,” Charlene said.  “Adam?  Robert?”

Adam touched Robert on the arm, and Robert opened his eyes.

“Are you ready?” Charlene asked them.

Adam nodded, but he looked green.

Robert put his hand on the hilt of one of his three daggers.  He also had a bottle of fire, several vials of poison, and a miniature bow and arrows to go along with it.  Sharon once asked him why he carried so many weapons with him, and he had curtly replied that it was always best to be prepared—for anything.  It was a logic that she couldn’t refute.  She had not asked again.

“Stay behind me,” Sharon warned.  She picked up her candle once more and led them all from the vault.  She knew these tunnels as well as any mouse knows their burrows.  Her path took them into the servants’ passages of the governor’s mansion.  She didn’t know how many of the servants had discovered that these passages were connected to the crypts.  She imagined some of them knew.

The governor did not.

Silent as shadows they passed along the corridor, Sharon praying that they would meet no one.  Most of the servants were abed now, as was the governor.  She would be ordinarily too.  She had warned one of the servants to keep away from this part of the mansion’s passageways if she could.  Sharon would not kill Meredith even if she should stumble across her here.  She counted Meredith a friend, had trusted her with that secret message, and would trust her again if she had had to come to this part of the mansion all the same.  She would send her away.  She hoped that Charlene would allow that.

She would have to allow that.

But they did not meet Meredith.  They were fortunate and met no one.  They gathered together at the entrance to the governor’s bedchamber.

He was a bachelor, but a promiscuous.  They had discussed what they would do if he should not be alone tonight.  They had planned for several reactions from a mistress or prostitute.

Charlene pressed a finger to her lips, shifted her grip on her gold-hilted dagger.

This was it.

Tonight they would do it.

After months of planning.

Charlene found the handle of the hidden doorway.

I stole this first line from Kate Kearney at More Than ½ Mad as part of our legal theft project.  Her original story using the same first line can be found on her blog.

All legal theft pieces can be found on our thief lord’s blog.

Challenge: Legal Theft: Accusation (1010 words)

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Welcome to Legal Theft Round 11 (or 2 with the larger group of which I am a part).  Today’s first line has come from The Gate In The Wood.  Her original short fiction can be found here.

As he exited the inner planet transport Edan noticed The Academy Director, and his right shoulder jerked awkwardly as he caught himself halfway through the automatic salute.  As Judicial Mugwump of the System, he did not need to salute anymore.  He acknowledged the Director’s salute to him with a stiff nod.  Hard to do.  He was not used yet to acknowledging deference, especially from men who had once been his superiors.

“Welcome back to Earth,” the Director said, adding with a grin, “sir.”

Edan frowned at him.  “Not the time, Director.”

“I know,” the Director said, sobering, “but it’s still odd to see you in that uniform.”  The Director gestured to the long, black robe and white wig that Edan was made to wear as Judicial Mugwump, bygones of an ancient Earth tradition, returned to favor when the planet had begun to long for its traditional ways, when the galaxy’s problems had come knocking and had overwhelmed the more narrow-minded and planetist of the earthlings.  Edan couldn’t tell if the Director meant to compliment the uniform or scoff at it.

He decided it didn’t matter.  He himself was still afforded the respect due his rank by the Director.  If the Director believed that the outfit was ridiculous, he shared Edan’s opinion.

“Where are they?” Edan asked.

“This way.”  The Director turned, and together their heels clicked over the checkered floor.  Edan snuck glances at the familiar corridors, the locked doors with their plaques proclaiming “Lab 13,” “Dr. Holofernes Richards,” or “Broom Closet.”  Little had changed.  The academy was still sterile and white.  Cadets still paced the halls in their crisp uniforms.  One or two young men and women passed, joking, wearing jeans and t-shirts.  The band names on the fronts of those off-duty had changed, and so had their manners towards him.  Now he was saluted instead of being greeted with jovial cries, shouts for his ruling in petty arguments, or fist bumps.

Edan accepted these salutes reluctantly, missing the camaraderie he had once shared with those at the academy.  Judicial Mugwump was a lonely position by definition.

The Director led him down into the bowels of the academy, where they passed fewer and fewer until they were alone.

Edan thought about making small chat with the Director, but what would he say?

Then ahead he saw the two armed guards standing as still and straight as ancient jamb statues outside of a doorway.

“They’re in there,” the Director said needlessly.  “Take the guards with you.”

“One,” Edan agreed reluctantly.  He didn’t know what he’d find on the other side, and caution was not uncalled for, but he’d also found that trust begat trust and brute force, anger.

“Be careful,” the Director said, touching Edan’s shoulder briefly.

Edan nodded and walked forward alone.  The guards had heard their exchange.  One detached herself from the wall.  She unlocked the door and handed her companion the keys.  She held the door for Edan, who marched in ahead of her.

The room beyond was dark.  What light there was came from around the door, which was shut behind them, leaving only the small square of barred light from its minute window.

Then the guardswoman hit a button that drowned the room in florescent light.  The prisoners hissed and recoiled.

Edan looked into the cell.

“But they’re just children!” he cried.

“Rebels,” the guardswoman corrected him crisply.  “They came in here with jerry-built explosives.  The elder has already admitted that their intention was to destroy the academy, though with the amount of powder they’d collected, they’d have destroyed no more than a few rooms, even including what would have been done through the post-explosion fire.”

Edan knelt by the bars behind which the children crouched.  They wore ragged clothes, heavily patched, black.  The elder, a girl with lank hair, was about thirteen.  The boy was younger, maybe ten, more likely nine.  He nestled against the girl.  The cuffs in which they had been placed had rubbed raw the skin around their wrists.  Shackles around their ankles kept them crouched.  “Is this true?” he asked them.

“Yes,” the girl answered gruffly.

“Why?”

She looked straight at him with bright green eyes.  Red had gathered at their rims, whether from lack of sleep or tears, but she looked no less fierce for it.  “To take down the system.  Because you all sit here in your castle, and you let refuse like us die in the streets without batting an eyelash.”

“Do you know who I am?” Edan asked.

“Another one of the Great One’s dogs.”

“I’m Judicial Mugwump of the System.  Do you know what that means?”

“You’re a fancy dog.”

“I’m charged with impartial judgment, and not just for this planet, for all the planets in Solar System G2V 1090.”

“Then tell me that you think the Great One’s a good man.”

“I believe he is,” Edan confessed, looking down.

“Then you’re not impartial.  Or you’re dense.  Or both.  How can you say that while he carts away the best and brings them here then leaves the rest of us to rot?”

“He does take some of us off the streets, though.”

“And the rest of us just have to accept our fate?”

“Convince me,” Edan challenged.  “Your fate now rests in my hands.  I have to decide whether to charge you, with what, and what your sentence will be.”

The girl scoffed, “Any sentence you deliver will be better than the one I’d be living in otherwise.  Starvation is not a way to die.  Have you heard toddlers crying, their stomachs hollow, and seen what mothers will do to try and feed them?  I’ve watched mothers slit the throats of newborns to give them a quick death.  I’ve watched them nervously cook up a man’s corpse in a stew to disguise the taste of decay.”

“I’ve seen these things,” Edan confessed quietly.

“And forgotten them, then,” the girl accused, “forgotten us, like all you Elite.  You’ve joined them,” she said.  “I fight them.  Do your worst, dog.  I will still be better than you.”

Thus ends my homage to every YA dystopian sci-fi ever.