A roar, a crackling burst of flame, and a yelp brought Dana abruptly out of her book. She looked up to see Yasmin scowling at Wildflash, who flicked her tail and turned her back pointedly on her trainer.
“Fine, I give up,” Yasmin grumbled, stomping away and hurling to the ground the gently smoking bridle she’d spent the last three days trying (unsuccessfully) to slip over Wildflash’s head.
“I’m not saying I told you so…” Dana murmured, shutting her book.
Yasmin shot her a venomous look and threw herself down upon the grass beside her friend. “Dragons are meant to be ridden,” she snarled. “Wildflash is just…stubborn.”
Said dragon ruffled her wings languidly before settling down on her forelegs, stretching out her neck, and to all appearances sinking into a nap in the sun, which made her dark green skin glitter like starlight was captured in their ridges.
“Not unlike her owner,” Dana wryly remarked.
Yasmin sighed and buried her face in her hands. “No one ever said bridle-training dragons would be this hard,” she moaned.
Dana snorted. “Actually, you’ll find that I did. Several times.”
Yasmin kicked her in the shin, which Dana conceded she rightfully deserved and didn’t bother trying to dodge. “Give it some time,” she told her friend, patting her arm comfortingly. “Wildflash is...well. Wild. She’s not like your dad’s stock, born and bred to be trained. You need to give her time to lose some of her feral-ness.”
“I know,” Yasmin sighed, letting her hands drop. “It’s just—nobody thinks I can do this. I don’t want to prove them right.”
“Well I think you can do this,” Dana said. Yasmin raised an eyebrow in disbelief, and then it was Dana’s turn to scowl. “I do. I just didn’t think you’d get her rider-ready as fast as you wanted, that’s all!”
“You have no proof that he ever existed. It was just a dream, Phillipa.”
But Phillipa had known it to be true, known him to be real. She didn’t need to offer anybody proof. She didn’t even need it to reassure herself; her memories were enough. She trusted herself enough.
And at long last--at long last—she’d found her proof, even if it had taken her a hundred and twelve years, terrible magic, and the sacrifice of her mortality to get it.
She cut down the last layer of enchanted, thorned ivy with her charmed sword to reveal the door on the other side. A word of command had it swinging open, and then she was through to the castle. And inside, they all slept. Servants and dogs and lords and ladies, in the courtyard and in the halls and along the staircases, untouched by time, preserved as they had been in the moment when the spindle had done its evil work.
Phillipa passed them all. She knew where to go. Knew where she'd find him. All she had to to was climb the stairs of the tallest tower and step through the open doorway.
And there he lay upon the bed, as beautiful as she remembered him. His hair golden as the sun at dawn. His cheeks flushed as twin roses. And that mouth—sweet and familiar and lax in his sleep.
Breathless, exultant, she crossed over to him, sank down upon the bed to hold his limp, warm hand in her own.
“Briar,” she whispered though he couldn’t hear her except, perhaps, in his dreams. “I’ve found you. I’ve come back to you.” Leaning forward, she swept a stray curl from his brow, smiled tremulously, though she'd almost forgotten how to after so, so long. “You’ll be free now,” she promised him. “You’ll be mine.”
And so saying, she bent forward, pressed her lips to his--
And fell asleep with a gentle sigh, curled against her beloved.
James wakes up on a Tuesday morning like any other and goes about his usual routine: blearily quieting his alarm, stretching with a groan and gently dislodging the purring weight of his cat from his chest, stumbling out of his room and to the bathroom. It’s only after he’s finished washing his hands and grabbed his toothbrush that everything goes careening into--not normal.
I need you, is written on his mirror in what appears to be blood.
Behind it, his reflection, all wide eyes and messy hair standing every which way. James blinks, makes to rub at his face with a fist as though it'll make the words disappear and only succeeds in nearly gouging his eye out with the toothbrush he’s still holding.
Muttering a curse, he sets it down on the corner and glares at the writing on his mirror.
“No,” he says aloud. “Go away. I’m retired.”
So saying, he marches out of the bathroom to get the glass cleaner from under the kitchen sink and a paper towel, returning to spray the mirror liberally and scrub the message away. It comes off easily. It might be blood, it might not be; either way, it’s gone. He tosses the paper towel in the garbage bin and goes about cleaning his teeth and his face and his hair, all the while glaring at the mirror (and thus, his reflection).
The rest of the day goes on as it was meant to. He makes breakfast for himself and feeds the cat. He gathers his laptop and wallet and keys and bag, and leaves for work. At around seven in the evening, he returns, greets his meowing cat with a scritch of her head, dumps his things on the couch, and sets about reheating leftovers for dinner.
He eats, he watches the latest episode of his favourite cooking show, he messages his mom, he yawns. He changes into pyjamas, and finally gives in, and goes to the bathroom. With mounting trepidation, he turns on the light and—bracing himself—checks the mirror.
And there the message is again. I need you.
“You need someone else,” he says firmly. “I don’t deal with the dead anymore! I made that very clear three years ago! Stop defacing my mirror.”
He sprays it with the cleaner. He wipes at the message.
It doesn’t budge.
James sighs explosively, glares at it, and throws his hands in the air. “You can’t make me,” he says, conscious that he sounds like a sulky toddler and not caring one wit.
After all, the last time he tried to help a ghost, he ended up killing a living, breathing human being.
'Condos of the Damned’. That’s what they should have called this place. Oh, it looked normal enough, if you were a normal person. Regular, newly built condo block, one of several that had popped up along the main street as the downtown core crawled its way further up the city. It had a marble lobby lit by a midcentury modern chandelier and recessed lights, decorated with a few plants in the corners.
There was no security guard, because it wasn’t that upscale, but there was a code or fob key needed for the door. Regular trundling elevator that smelled either of wet dog or cigarette smoke or weed. Regular layout of apartments, varying between two and three bedrooms with a living room that flowed into a dining room and a kitchen with too little counter space but goodly amount of cupboards. Requisite amount of windows and balconies.
Like I said, normal place for normal people.
But I’m not normal. I’m a medium, a real one, and when I looked at this condo, all I could see was the infestation of ghosts haunting the place. What’s worse, they were all on the verge of becoming poltergeists, the way ghosts that have been around too long tend to do. If something wasn’t done, this benign infestation of ghosts would upgrade into a horde of violent spirits.
And when they did…well then, every tenant would be damned.
prompt #757 from awesomewritingprompts.tumblr.com
[[ content warning | death mention ]]
“I’m impressed you managed to get away before they found you.”
You look up to see a shadowy figure crouched on the fire escape, staring down at you from beneath the deep cowl of their hood. You don’t say anything; panting for air as quietly as possible while somewhere down the block the hunters pan out to try and find you.
“No, honestly, very impressed,” the figure says. Their voice is gravelly, verging on hoarse. You feel the sympathetic urge to clear your throat. You ignore it. You wonder if they’re going to attack you or not, if they’ll let you keep running or bring the hunters onto your trail.
“They’re some of the top hunters in the territory,” the figure continues, and then tips over the railing in a strangely controlled fall to land lightly on their feet, knees bent to absorb the shock. It’s not a very far fall, but it’s also not a human move—unless they’re a conveniently acrobatic human.
They probably aren’t. Your senses, as one beloved comic book figure once said, are tingling.
You glance back over your shoulder. This alley leads onto a busy road where you’ll be able to lose the hunters. You wonder if mystery-chatty person here will stop you or let you make a run for it. You don’t want to fight. You’re exhausted. Depending on who they are, what they are, you’ll lose if you do.
“Cat got your tongue?” Mystery Stranger asks, something like a snicker in their undertone. Great, they’re a wisecracker.
“You gonna get in my way?” you ask, and you try to sound menacing but it just comes out tired, scared, strained.
The stranger laughs, short and raspy, like a smoker. “Depends,” they say, “Your way won’t get you very far. My way, on the other hand, will get you clear of all of this.” They wave their hand in an idle rotation, and then cock their head and wait for you to answer.
“What’s the catch?”
“Smart cookie,” says Stranger. “You help me out with a little problem of mine, I help you out with this big problem of yours.”
You’re about to press for details on what this ‘little problem’ consists of, but then you hear a whistle, sharp and piercing, and just like that, the time for conversation evaporates. You either run or take this stranger’s offer, and either way you risk a lot. Your trembling legs tell you you aren’t going to get very far, not with the hunters so close.
“Deal,” you say.
Stranger draws up to their full height and throws their hood back. “Very smart cookie,” they say around a mouthful of fangs, their eyes gleaming like embers. You feel ice surge through you as the stranger whips around to face the converging hunters.
“Hello boys,” they purr, stoop forward, and roar.
White hot flame jets down the alley, blinding you, burning you even as you’re standing out of its range—the hunters don’t even have time to scream. When it’s over, when you can blink the black spots from your vision and shake the ringing from your ears, the stranger is blowing smoke rings into the sooty alley.
Behind them, all there is is ash.
You wonder what you’ve signed yourself up for, what the hell kind of problem a dragon shifter could possibly have that they’d need you--a kitsune—for, and whether or not you’d have been better off with the hunters.
“Shall we?” Dragon Stranger asks, and you’ve got no choice but to nod. After all, a deal’s a deal. And nobody breaks a deal with a dragon unless they want to be roasted.
“There is no ctrl+del for death,” said the demon, looking at the young witch who’d summoned him with perturbation. This was a more threatening expression than it was meant to be, but considering the horns and halo of flame above said horns and the jet black eyes lacking sclera, the demon couldn’t help it.
“First of all,” said the witch, continuing to scroll through an article on necromancy on Dark Wikipedia. “How did you do that with your mouth? And how did I understand it?”
The demon shrugged. “Language,” he said, as if that explained it. “Are you going to let me out or let me go, or am I stuck here for the foreseeable future?”
“Can’t see the future, haven’t taken the course yet,” said the witch absently, and then finally deigned to turn around and eye the demon with a morose expression.
The demon eyed him right back, without the moroseness.
“I didn’t mean to kill him, is the thing,” said the witch, biting the inside of his cheek. “It was an accident. And like. I can’t afford to fail another course! And my professor will fail me, and then I’ll have even more money to pay back, and are you sure you can’t help me? Aren’t you supposed to grant me a wish if I summon you? I’ve summoned you!” They flapped an arm in the demon’s direction, nearly breaking past the circle that bound him.
“I’m a demon, not a djinn,” said the demon.
The witch’s shoulders slumped, and he buried his face in his hands. The demon shifted uncomfortably. Was the witch crying? He hated when people cried. He never knew what to do.
“Well,” he said, when the witch’s shoulders began to tremble a little. “I mean. I have a cousin who is the purveyor of the souls of familiars? Maybe I can get them to…”
The demon faltered as the witch’s head whipped up and he hastily wiped tear streaks from his cheeks, eyes gone wide and hopeful. “Yeah?” he asked breathlessly. “I mean, yeah if you could—that would be great!”
“It would require payment,” said the demon slowly, “And a grocery trip. And bribes. And also, to let me out of this circle.”
“Yeah, ok, yeah, no, I can do that!” the witch exclaimed, toppling out of his chair in his excitement.
“Um,” said the demon, watching the witch reach out to erase the binding sigil in the circle, “Don’t—uh. Contracts? Should—contracts should be. A thing. We—how in the seven hells did you summon me?”
The witch froze and looked up sheepishly, fingers resting on the sigil that would unleash the demon. “Um,” he said, “Dark Wiki-how had a good step-by-step article and a predilection for demon summoning is in my genes?”
“#$%,” said the demon, closing his eyes. How the witch had survived long enough to get into university, if this was how he regularly did things, the demon didn’t know. It would be an embarrassment to kill him and wreak havoc. The witch was an idiot. What was worse, a good hearted idiot.
There was nothing infernally clever about using him.
The witch blinked, there on the floor at the demon’s feet. “No really, how are you doing that?”
prompt via request by leave-her-a-tome
[[ content warning | death mention, addiction mention ]]
Mama says the difference between symbiosis and codependency is reciprocation. You might think she’s talking about love. If you’re a cynical type of person, you might think she’s talking about addiction.
It was both and neither. Mama was talking about magic. That that was the ultimate danger of magic—that you needed it more than it could ever need you, and that was why it was better not to find it at all. Because once you found your magic, once you met it and shook its hand and tasted it in your mouth, you would love it, you would need it, and you would never be the same without it again.
Magic doesn’t care about you, she would say. Magic will take and take, and worse, you will give and give, until there’s nothing left of you, and then magic will find someone else.
You might wonder why Mama thought this.
We’re talking about magic, after all, beautiful and glorious and miraculous and awful, in that old sense of the word where that meant ‘awe full’. But I never wondered—you saw it all the time; someone met their magic smiling charmingly at them in a shop or on the road or, if they were really unlucky, in their bedroom.
And give or take a few weeks (or months or years, but always inevitably) that person would end up buried a husk of themselves, drained to death, and magic wouldn’t even come to the funeral. Sure, there would always be a legacy of terror or wonder left behind, the children of a union with magic, but that was the point—it was always left behind, never carried forward.
So I listened to Mama and swore to myself that if my magic ever introduced itself to me, I would turn it away.
Oh, but I didn’t know that that was easier said than done. I didn’t know anything at all—I thought all those other people were fools or weak or desperate, and I was none of those things, I was smarter than them, I had Mama’s warnings etched into my mind.
Magic doesn’t care about you.
I know better now. Magic was never meant for our world, and without us it can’t be, and therein lies the problem. Magic doesn’t want to die. It doesn’t even want us to die.
Just like anything else, magic wants to live.
But magic wasn’t meant for this world, and we are inextricably of this world. It burns through us, like fire and like love, and leaves us wasted, through no fault of its own.
But I’m going to change all that. My magic came to me, took me by the hand and kissed me on the mouth and said it needed me, and I learned Mama was wrong. It’s not codependency.
Or it will be. It will be. I just need to–
prompt via request by modeans3
[[ content warning | death mention ]
There is no sound in space, you know this, and yet the voice is a voice, a real one, just on the edge of hearing. Maybe you’re just going crazy, out here all alone like you have been for…well, you don’t know how long anymore. Long enough that there’s no more food, long enough that there’s no more water, long enough that there’s almost no air.
It could be that you’re dying. You don’t feel like you’re dying. You expected there to be some element of suffering to dying, but you’re just…floating. Watching nebula drift by, bottomless black streaked and sparked with silver and purple and red and green and blue and palest yellow, all in jewel tones like a beetle’s iridescent back, like millions of millions of beetles’ iridescent backs.
You are alone, except for the voice. You think it might be the voice of space, or something in space, or the stars, or your own lonely mind wheeling, wheeling. You can never decide. The whisper carries on, and you carry on, not dead but probably dying, and the universe carries on, endlessly.
That’s the worst part, you think. The endlessness. All you want is an ending.
But there is none, long after all the oxygen should have gone. You remain, and the whisper remains, and space stretches on and on and on.
prompt via deepwaterwritingprompts
“Expect the unexpected, especially around here. Monsters lurk around here.”
“Here, though, really?”
They both looked around at the quaint little soap shop, full of handmade, package-free products of so many competing scents that in the end, it was dominated by lavender and what Vanessa could only describe as soap bubble tang.
Tom shrugged. “Well, yeah. Listen, I warned you, and on your own head be it if you don’t choose to believe me.”
So saying, he want back to front-facing the shampoo bars. It was not the most customer-friendly attitude she’d encountered, but he wasn’t rude either, so whatever. Honestly he probably didn’t get paid enough to warrant the manic sort of helpful-cheerfulness retail managers demanded of their employees, and Vanessa had always thought the forced smiles to be creepy more than anything.
With a shake of her head, Vanessa made for the neat pyramids of bath bombs. Ever since moving to a place with an actual tub, she’d been dreaming of the things, and had finally saved up enough disposable income to not feel guilty about stockpiling a stash.
This shop was like a dream come true: right around the corner, holding semi-frequent sales, and with everything organized both whimsically and sensibly.
She picked up one bath-bomb shaped like the Loch Ness Monster from the ‘cryptids’ section and sniffed it—it smelled vaguely like a pond, with undercurrents of petrichor and heather. Not altogether bad smelling, but not that perfume-y either. It was green, and looked to have flecks of dried lichen or moss in it.
Vanessa could see herself lounging in her bath like a bog witch, and decided she was definitely getting it. Twenty minutes later, seventy-five dollars poorer, and three re-usable little bags heavier, she left the shop and made for home with a spring in her step. She was going to give herself a thorough pampering.
…That had been the plan, anyway. She’d lit candles, filled the tub with water just cooler than scalding (exactly the way she liked it), put on an instrumental playlist, was enrobed in her fluffiest bath robe, and had just dropped Nessie the bath-bomb into the water. It bubbled and fizzed and frothed.
Vanessa squinted at the green-grey water, now redolent with flecks of moss and tiny little sticks of some kind of patchouli, and saw a shadow pass through the bath water.
A shadow? Or was that the candles playing with the still foaming water?
The shadow deepened, darkened, grew. And then--fwoosh!
Vanessa toppled off the covered toilet with a shriek as what she could only describe as a mini-dinosaur’s head emerged from her bath, followed swiftly by a long neck that carried the head right up to her ceiling. Water splished and splashed and splattered everywhere. Vanessa gaped wordlessly. The monster, for it was a monster, albeit a cute-sort of amphibian lizard-monster, cooed down at her.
“What—” she croaked, and then there was a plop, like a very large bubble popping, and Nessie (it had to be Nessie!) vanished with a wave of heathery scent.
Vanessa rubbed her eyes, feeling not unlike a cartoon character, but her bathroom and bathtub and bathwater was now monster-free.
Expect the unexpected, she thought half-sourly, half-wonderingly, and got into her bath after ensuring nothing else was funny about it…
[[ content warnings | blood, police, implied child abuse, murder ]
“I want you to know I’m proud of you. A little. Somewhat.”
Now this was saying something, considering that multiple buildings were on fire, Tamsin was covered in blood, and the sirens ripping through the air meant the police were around the corner (well, them and the firetrucks, but the firemen weren’t likely to shoot and/or arrest them).
Tamsin grinned and spat off to the side, hefting her sawed-off and aiming it squarely at his chest. “Are you really?” she asked, “Go on, what’ve I done to attain your oh-so-rarely-granted approval?”
Everett lifted his hands higher, eyes tracking the double barrel, which was disappointingly steady. “Well,” he drawled, deceptively calm, even as he wracked his brain for how to get out of this with his chest intact and his lifeline unbroken. “For one thing, I had no idea you’d be the murderous megalomaniac of our friend group to snap and bring the full force of the authorities on us. So good job on that.”
Tamsin sneered. “You’re not as prescient as you think,” she said, and flipped her blood-soaked hair so the heavy braid fell over her shoulder. “I managed to slip right under your radar; you were so focused on Derek.” Her face contorted in an ugly sneer. “You really had no idea of what I was capable of, did you?”
Everett shrugged. “I suspected,” he allowed. Something in the not-so-distance collapsed in on itself with a rumbling roar of flame, momentarily flattening all the night’s shadows. “But then, I suspected everyone. So, well done you. Where is Derek, by the way?”
Tamsin smiled. “Who’s blood do you think I’m drenched in?”
She cocked the shotgun, but that wasn’t why Everett’s heart dropped.
“I killed him, Ev,” she said, sliding one foot behind her, readjusting her stance and her grip. “You were all wrong—we didn’t need the knife for the sacrifice to be accepted. We needed the inscriptions on it. Any only knife would do.” She paused, drinking in the impact these words had on him. “I thought it would be harder, watching him die. But it wasn’t.”
“Bye bye, Ev. It’s been fun, but I don’t need you anymore. I can raise the Iron King all by myself now.”
Her finger curled around the trigger. He saw the gun recoil as if in slow motion, saw the shadows behind her flare out like they were made of tangible matter, saw her eyes blaze golden.
And then he felt the impact of the shells—an impact like the time Lila hit him with her car because she’d gotten the gas and break pedal confused, a burning like the time his mother taught him the stove was hot by flattening his four-year-old palm against it, and then he was on the ground, staring up at the sky, and the world went quiet.
He couldn’t breathe. Panic gripped him, and then pain, and then cold.
And then nothing.
Tamsin snorted derisively, lowered her gun, and walked over to prod Ev with the toe of her ballet flats. If all these months of research had taught her anything, it was to always make sure the adversary was dead.
It was hard to avoid death like the one she’d given him, though. Satisfied with herself, Tamsin idly admired the chaos she’d wrought and scratched out Ev’s name from the list she carried in her head. Four down, one to go.
It was just Aliyah left now, and she knew exactly where her roommate was hiding. She could see it, a streak of light leading her to where Aliya was no doubt desperately flipping through their year of notes for some way to stop Tamsin.
She wouldn’t find it.
Whistling, Tamsin made for the library.
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