Legal Theft: Tribond

Time ground on. Its beat the inescapable rhythm of the world, and everything bowed before it.

~

For the first time in his short life Richard couldn’t wait to be finished with his lesson. His stylus scratched out a final response in the wax tablet, and Richard raced to hand it in to his teacher. He was gone before the man had even checked the answers. Richard ducked through the bronze studded gate and across the blue tiled courtyard with it’s bubbling pool and sweet jasmine. Finally he was in his mother’s quarters. Suddenly shy he slowed and wondered if he should have washed his feet before the baby’s cry coaxed him forward.

“Richard, come and see.” At his mother’s low voice Richard stepped into the nursery he’d left a short few years ago. Gabriel was seated with his favorite red ball, his eyes large and solemn as their mother sat propped up on pillows. Richard crossed the floor and peered at the bundle his mother held. The small face was red and scrunched and there was a mass of black hair on the tiny head. “Her name is Sen,” Richard’s mother stroked a long delicate finger over the round cheek. “Promise me you will protect her, Richard, it will be your duty to guard your siblings.” The six year old nodded with as much dignity as he could muster eyes sliding over the infants bow of a mouth and across the room to his brother.

“I promise.”

~

Richard blinked slowly as the ringing in his head gradually subsided, and he licked the blood off of his teeth. The barbarian sneered deciding that separating the ten year old girl from her brothers wasn’t worth the trouble of killing them all. Richard tugged Sen behind him again as Gabriel began whispering the secrets he learned and how to gain favor with the Captain of the current barbarian hoard who was desperate for legitimacy. Richard nodded and reached out with his shaking magic to touch the enemies’ mind.

~

His silken robes displayed the insignia of his fallen and destroyed house as Sen, resplendent in red walked around the matrimonial fire. Only the knowledge that she could rip her new husband limb from limb calmed the fire in his gut. Knowing Gabriel would soon leave to serve as a scribe hurt as well, but they had to appear weak for now. They could not bear suspicion when Sen’s husband died in a few years and his lands followed his widow to the house of her brothers.

~

Richard watched the high table where the aging warlord grumbled into his cups. The young server, the son of a minor lord, carried a heavy tray. As the lordling reached the warlord Richard reached out twice. To his brother’s mind with a quick thought that it was time and to the server with a graphic and gory image of the boy’s father-dead. The lordling jerked and food and wine spilled over the warlord. Gabriel closed his eyes and flashed the warlord’s discontent into rage. With a roar, the warlord stood and gutted the boy. The hall fell silent as Captains and lords alike looked away from the scene. They’d known the warlord was slipping, but now-now leadership would have to change.

~

Sen lay bleeding sluggishly on the battlefield. Her power tapped and her strength fading. Richard faught panic as he struggled to keep his mind touching hers refusing to let her slip away. Beside him Gabriel placed a hand on his shoulder and the two brothers threw all their power into their sister. Pain laced through Richard hovering over his side and shoulder where his sister was bleeding out. Gabriel gasped his fingers white on Richard’s shoulder, but Sen-Sen was standing. Dimly Richard could feel her mind brighten as she took up their battle standard and ripped into the enemy troops.

~

Time ground armies into dust and history into myth. It scoured engravings and truth was shrouded in pretty stories. The oldest of the Trin Empire’s gods quietly closed his book. His long fingered hands went to the chain around his neck and the single jewel that hung from it. Time defeated all things in the end, or so they said.

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Very, very late, but I stole the first line from More than 1/2 Mad.  

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Legal Theft: The Unit

There was going to be a discussion on the proper storage practices for knives; mainly that leaving them in people wasn’t a good plan. Astoria’s slate blue eyes flicked down to her clipboard and then over her small recon unit. She hadn’t written much not wanting to take her eyes off her team as they progressed through the training exercise. Astoria took a breath-no more stalling.

“Bane,” she called firmly and two gazes snapped to meet hers. Astoria made a mental note to find a better way to identify them. First names were too casual and she’d not call her subordinates Mr. and Ms. Maybe she’d use their positions as identifiers? Astoria flicked a finger to the custom military knife sticking out of the chest of a supine dummy. “Yank it out in battle. You might be able to afford the loss of a good knife, but getting replacements in the field will be hell.” Not to mention ripping it out would bleed the enemy. Kirt Bane’s cocky smile didn’t slip, but his eyes narrowed slightly as he nodded his head. For a moment Astoria hesitated, wondering if she should snap out the routine ‘Is that clear soldier?’ at the lack of verbal response, but Kirt’s raw recruit record was already covered in reports of disrespect of authority, and Astoria wanted this team to work well not just survive.

“Scout, good job on the forward, and excellent take down,” Bell Bane didn’t react to the praise her unnaturally still face focused on Astoria. “But you keep an eye on the entire unit, and not just your brother’s back. Rivera had to take out the last target from the side.” Astoria glanced at her last recruit who was not quite panting.

“Rivera, keep with the group. You nearly became separated from your unit,” which was almost  as much their fault as hers, “and you have to cover your side better that last target had clear line of sight for nearly five seconds. More than long enough to get off a shot.” The medic nodded and Astoria clapped her hands once, “Alright people. Take your gear and clear the area. Meet me at the track in fifteen.” Kirt’s groan was loud enough to drown out Rivera’s, but Astoria was certain that the medic had given one. Still the three ran off and Astoria had a moment for a breather.

The first week with a new unit was vital. Expectations and behaviors were formed, sometimes even in the first day. She started filling out the training form. Astoria frowned when she noticed someone had penciled in ‘Political Nightmare’ by their unit number. Hardly original, and yet Astoria couldn’t exactly fault them. Getting saddled with the son or daughter of some rich or powerful mover from the capital could ruin an entire outfit if something went really wrong. Better to stick them all together and hope if something happened their parents would all be too pissed at each other to take revenge on the troop.

The Bane’s were one of the main contractors and producers of weapons and munitions. They probably provided one fifth of the total equipment used in the War. The Rivera’s were known for turning out unparallelled doctors and researchers. The head of the family had cracked the secret of the enemy’s poison gas twenty years ago rocketing her to fame. Better by far to stick them all together and give them to Astoria, no matter that the contrasting personalities might get them all killed. Astoria sighed at her mental dramatics. She was the only one ready for a command with the political clout to deal with the Banes and Rivera. Every member of her family had served in the military. Her father was a field general and her mother a strategist on the War Council. Astoria dropped off the form off and headed to the track. They just needed time, she promised herself as she nodded to her team.

“Alright people, let’s go.”

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Alright, you know the drill I’m a thief. I stole the first line from Creatures, Critters, and Crawlers. Go check out her story Impractical Placement

Legal Theft: Protections

Flames danced up her sleeve, and she sighed as she put them out. Hardly the best of omens. The three rough quarrymen sitting before her fire jerked, and one swore quietly.

“Peace,” she said quickly and they didn’t flee. The youngest man, Young Martin, looked towards the door in her hut as if eager to escape.

“Dad, the priest already blessed the house-” he began muttering, but Helga spoke over him.

“Observe,” she lifted her sleeve, “the flame has only danced, not harmed. The protections hold true.” It wasn’t perfectly accurate, a few wool fibers had singed, but the men relaxed as one. Helga leaned over her fire again. Thick smoke from the sacred herbs filled her home, and her eyes watered a little as she leaned in, careful to keep her sleeves free from the fire. In her eyes, the house grew dark and stars hung from the bare rafters of her home. Somewhere close by a mouth dark and hungry panted. Helga wasn’t actually there-she knew. Her feet were on a wooden floor, her hands warmed by real flames. Quietly, surely, she began to mutter the ancient phrases her mother had sung to her. Words of power in a tongue no one living could understand without going mad. Gradually the darkness faded from her eyes-the hungry place was shut away again for a little while longer.

Helga blinked and saw three men and her hut. There was a pot of herbs on the ledge and her spinning wheel in the corner. She breathed and coughed as the last of the smoke entered her lungs. Her worn fingers moved quietly picking up the ladle and fishing out three woven amulets from the potion in her pot. Young Martin wrinkled his nose, but his father held out his hands eagerly as Helga offered them to him.

“Wear them on a cord around your neck when you enter the quarry. Do not take them off for any reason and the darkness will not harm you.”

“As long as the new Lord doesn’t come to the quarry proper we should be safe.” Young Martin said with a glower “things were quiet before they came back to the Manor.”

Helga didn’t respond, and the boy turned away from her gaze.

“Thank you,” Old Martin handed over a pheasant as well as a few coins. “James and his boys will be coming by tomorrow no doubt.”

“After the priest,” Helga smiled easily. After all, near the Ashlock lands the well to do went to the priest the clever went to the Witch and the wise went to both. Any and all protections were needed against what lived in the house. “I’ll be waiting for them.”

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Friends have stolen the first line of this piece to write their own stories. 🙂

Legal Theft: The Sea Serpent

Titan started changing the moment his booted feet hit the deck of his Schooner. His first mate knew his moods, and was managing casting off from Mahal without the Captain. Titan closed the door to his cabin and breathed deep. He shucked off the scarlet and gold coat emblazoned with the Chosen’s insignia on the left shoulder and the bars of the General of the Imperial armies on the right. He balled it up and considered tossing it in a corner before shaking a head at himself. There wasn’t room on a ship for blatantly discarded momentos, better to put it away. His hands folded the coat, then the shirt that followed, and finally his breaches. He opened his chest and tucked them away frowning as his uncalloused hands slid smoothly across the fabric without a snag.

Titan looked down at the patch on his stomach where a three inch long scar, white and puckered had vanished into baby soft skin. His fingers roamed over the right shoulder where her spear had taken him high in the shoulder, and he’d made it worse by breaking the spear shaft to spite her. The ridges of scar tissue had long since vanished, but after every healing he felt the need to check. Healing, she called it-sometimes it felt more like an unmaking.

Snorting at such maudlin thoughts, Titan dressed again in breaches, considered adding boots to protect his soft feet and shrugged. It would be better to get them calloused sooner rather than later. He tied a brilliant scarlet sash around his waist and went up on deck, leaving the Chosen in the cabin and returning to what he’d lost, The Sea Serpent-King of the Archipelagos. High on his right bicep, a thin faint ring of black proved that even her power had limits.

____

He’d lived long enough that even practical routines carried the weight of tradition. It was tradition now to return to the archipelagos after a full healing and have his tattoos redone. The woman piercing his skin with needles carrying black and scarlet ink certainly felt the gravity of the moment. His people had turned these returns into a ritual all their own. Each step of the tattoo process was followed with almost religious weight. Then again, considering he was a Chosen of the Three gods perhaps it had religious significance.

Titan had neither the heart nor interest to tell her that the needle simply needed to be clean not ritually sterilized three times in fire. The repeated sharp pain ended, and the woman bowed to him. Titan glanced at his right bicep. The black Sea Serpent accented in red snaked around his arm. Each time more and more of the scar tissue that made the tattoo stayed through the healing process.

He simply stood and strode out of the arched room heading down to the beach. His sword felt awkward in his hands as he moved through the forms relishing the bruising and cracking of his skin regaining what he’d lost. The sun glinted off the peaceful aqua blue waters, and for a moment Titan saw the waters boil as he poured lava down into the path of her ships. Smoke filled his lungs as exhaustion battled with fury. The memory cleared and Titan’s heart gripped in his chest even as his skin still stung with the pricks of the needles. It was so much easier here to remember how he’d failed. Sometimes the island felt like a prison. Sometimes he was terrified he’d forget that feeling.

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I’m a thief. I stole the line “Sometimes he Island felt like a prison” from Machete Diplomacy. Go check out her story Yellow Lanterns.

Legal Theft: Big Day

Dawn called, and he wasn’t going to answer. At all. He didn’t roll over and cover his head with the covers. He just lay there with his eyes closed and refused to acknowledge the sun as it inched across the floor, over the bed, and onto his face. The door suddenly burst open, and Nuka had to fight not to react.

“Nuka, Nuka, Nuka! It’s your birthday. Happy Birthday! I said it first, I said it first.”

Nuka finally rolled over and blinked at the six year old that had jumped onto his bed and was currently climbing over his legs and up his chest.

“Fallon? What are you-oh my birthday? Thank you.” He smiled at the grinned and gap toothed child. For a moment Nuka worried that Fallon’s head would bobble off with the energy of his nods.

“It’s your birthday. Miss Alice said you might forget, and I said how can you forget your own birthday? But she said we could make you breakfast in bed. Isn’t that nice?

“Mmhum, very nice. Can we eat together though?” Nuka carefully maneuvered himself so that Fallon’s knees didn’t land in painful places.

“YEP,” Fallon scrambled down the side of the bed, “I’m going to get breakfast now. Just don’t move. It has to be breakfast in bed that’s what makes it special.” The six year old informed him seriously.

“Got it,” Nuka nodded with equal gravity and fluffed the pillows behind his head so sitting up would be more comfortable. Well, he might get up today after all.

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I’ve been robbed. Just a bit of fluff for the weekend. See the story thieves below.

Creatures, Critters and Crawlers “Mornings

Legal Theft: In Search of Liam

Cris watched with gloom as her planet swirled around her in an ever agitated mass of lightning and volcanoes.

“Look, Rory, I know family means a lot to you, but I can check the caves. If an outsider ever set foot here I’d hear about it. You don’t have to come down with me.” The slipstream shuddered as it missed another spear of lightning. Rory Lawless didn’t take his eyes off the sky as he piloted his aircraft towards the giant cleft in the rock that indicated the beginning of the caves.

“You’ve said that Terentine ships have landed on the planet before, Cris. Trade can happen without us “outsiders” putting out feet on your planet. I need to talk to the head merchants personally. Don’t worry-I’ve got a way with people.” Rory shot a smile over his shoulder at the reptilian woman.

“Way of getting your head bitten off more like,” Cris grumbled as she stared out the window. If Rory wanted to court death that was his affair, but did he have to drag her into it-and during lightning season. “You realize they’re not going to let you leave again if only for your own good. You’ll need to wait a few months for the volcanic activity to settle down.” She winced as another eruption of lava sounded close by them. Rory barked a laugh.

“Darling, I’d rather have my head bitten off by your leaders than to go back home empty handed to Grace. Either finding my brother is going to kill me or his wife will,” Rory muttered to himself all humor vanished. Cris sighed and tested the safety belts on her chair.

“Right well, your funeral. You land there.”

Rory turned the nose of the slipstream, “Alright, Cris- time to introduce this outside to your planet.” Rory grinned and Cris just moaned.

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I’m a thief and a day late posting. I stole the first line from Creatures, Critters, and Crawlers.

Legal Theft: Homecoming Surprise

She felt for the lock in the dark. In this portion of the palace the ancient arches and doors still stood with repairs performed in the old style to show the progression of the empire throughout the entire building. It was a lovely idea and utterly awe inspiring as a focal piece of the centuries old empire. Ancient locks, however well remade or maintained, simply didn’t work the way she expected. Her fingers gingerly followed the shape of the metal as she inserted the stolen key and gently unlocked the door. Sudden light blossomed at the end of the corridor as someone lit a lamp, and Amalie blinked shielding her eyes.

“What on earth do you think you’re doing?” The man’s voice was as scolding as a father and Amalie instantly felt her cheeks heat. The man approached closer and she could make out the crest of a crown over a crossed wand and sword.

“Oh, I’m sorry-it’s just, a surprise,” Amalie stuttered as she recognized the oldest Chosen of the empire. Nuka was holding the lamp in one hand and he pinched the bridge of his nose with the other.

“You shouldn’t be here,” Nuka sighed.

“No, it’s actually quite alright.” Amalie rushed lifting the tin with her homemade cookies. “Bronze is supposed to be back tomorrow and I wanted to leave these for him.”

“I don’t know how you got into this part of the palace, but I assure you- Bronze does not want gifts or ‘surprises’ from anyone he doesn’t know.” He held up a hand to forstall her, “I’m deadly serious. Out of all of us, worship irritates Bronze the most, and he doesn’t take kindly to those who heap it upon him. You are going to go, now.” Nuka continued firmly.

Amalie took a step forward blushing furiously, “But it isn’t like that, I’m-”

“OUT, before I have you thrown out.” Nuka snapped back, “This wing is our reprieve from the hordes and neither he nor I appreciate it being invaded.”

“I’m his girlfriend,” Amalie nearly had to shout over the frowning Chosen. “He’s been gone for nearly three months, and I’ll be in class when he gets home tomorrow. I just wanted there to be something from me to welcome him home. I have a key and everything.” Amalie offered purposefully neglecting to mention that she lifted it off her boyfriend. Nuka looked unimpressed.

“You were sneaking along the hall in the dark because you knew his schedule and wanted to leave him a gift?” He intoned skepticism heavy in his voice. Amalie huffed, she really should have brought a lamp or at least a candle.

“I didn’t realize this part of the castle would be so dark, and sometimes he gets back early.” She offered weakly. Nuka sniffed and continued to study her.

“His girlfriend, eh? I know he’s been on dates, but…” the Chosen seemed to come back to himself. “Alright fine. I’ll let you leave the cookies, and then I’ll escort you out. If you so much as take a dirty sock ‘for remembrance’ I’ll have you in the jailhouse, understood?” It was Amalie’s turn to snort. She’d seen far too many of her boyfriends dirty socks to ever want one.

“Of course not. Bronze hates that sort of fawning.” She said piously as she pushed the door open. Amalie had privately been looking forward to seeing Bronze’s room in the palace. It was surprisingly spartan. There were hardly any personal touches, and while the furnishings were expensive they seemed somehow stale and unused. Amalie went to the dresser and placed the tin of cookies squarely on the middle. She made sure to leave the welcome home note on top and turned back to the door wary of lingering too long under the watchful eye of Nuka. The Chosen didn’t say anything as she left and locked the door behind her.

“I’ll escort you out, Miss..?”

“Oh, I’m Amalie Fenimore.” Amalie smiled having regained most of her composure. Nuka nodded seriously.

“Do take care Miss Fenimore, had anyone else found you there you could have been in serious trouble.”

“Oh, yes, thank you.” Amalie nodded thoroughly chastised and there was no other conversation between them as Nuka escorted her out of the palace.

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Back again, back again. I stole the first line from Machete Diplomacy. Go see the original piece!

Legal Theft: Familiar

Titan stood legs apart hands pressed against the table and the creased map that lay sprawled across it. An attack in Mahal, then a wagon of supplies going lost in the mountain passes, then the port at Lobster’s Claw catching fire. This shouldn’t be happening especially not when it seemed almost…familiar.

“Careful, Titan, that is the most complete map we have at the moment and if you set it on fire getting another will be annoying.” Nuka relaxed in the camp chair, his head tilted to hear any sounds of alarm from outside the tent.

“This shouldn’t be happening,” Titan growled. “The attacks are too tight together to be anything but coordinated, but the amount of ground is impossible.”

“Unless they have separate raiding parties, or maybe the rumors are right and they do have a portal mage. In either case, our task is this mountain wizard and the tribes he’s raised, not the sporadic attacks. You usually focus better.” Nuka threw off the jibe carelessly and his mouth curved upward as Titan pushed off the table to pace.

“The Black Dog’s nearly crushed or the Empress wouldn’t have left,” Titan said at the end of the tent before he turned to pace back to the table.

“Oh, so is it missing her that has you so cranky?” The words were out of Nuka’s mouth before the man thought them through and he twitched as if to call them back.  

“We aren’t friends, Nuka. You don’t get to tease.” Titan had gone still and turned to face the seated Chosen for the first time. Nuka nodded once acknowledging Titan’s words before twisting the conversation out of dangerous waters.

“Why do they bother you so? The attacks.”

Titan returned to the camp table and the map. His eyes darted to the most recent targets and then hovered on Lobster’s Claw. Slowly his eyes drifted over the Archipelagos and then to the open water where there was nothing save the depiction of a giant fish and the echoes of rumors. He drummed his fingers on the edge of the map.

“I get the feeling that I’ve forgotten something rather important,” Titan said quietly his eyes never leaving the ocean. Nuka snapped his gaze back to Titan and forgot to breathe. Titan glanced up and held his fellow Chosen’s eyes. They both remembered the rushed and quiet lessons of learning to hide memories within their own minds. Taking secrets and burying them so deep even the original owner couldn’t remember them until it was safe. “That these attacks-this Guerilla war is something familiar.” Titan continued breaking eye contact and looking back at the inked lines. Nuka reminded himself to breathe. When he regained equilibrium he spoke again.

“All the more reason to focus on our assignment, and let others address these attacks.”

A scream tore the night air and Nuka rose to his feet. Titan was out the entrance of the tent even as he drew his sword, and bellowed for his soldiers to follow him into battle.  

 

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My dear friends have stolen the line “He drummed his fingers on the edge of the map.”

Creatures, Critters, and Crawlers wrote Crime Solving

 

Legal Theft: Family Visit

A few important things have no reason behind them, yet, somehow, that will never alter their gravity. Kirt read the sentence again and again, and then realized he’d been reading that sentence for over twenty minutes. Admitting defeat, Kirt closed the textbook and leaned over to check on his Uncle again. Cole was still sleeping, or unconscious, Kirt wasn’t sure which, but Sara had assured him he was ok physically. Kirt breathed out a low breath again checking for any wounds. It seemed impossible that his Uncle had survived four straight days with a murderous psychopath who wanted information and come out with no wounds. No visible wounds anyway. Kirt had nearly lost his mind searching for Cole. He could only imagine that his Uncle’s mind was in far worse condition.

Kirt leaned his head back and refused to look at his bookbag.He’d missed a test and four days of classes and homework. This semester had been rocky to begin with, and the latest catastrophe just spelled its ruin. He jolted as a ringtone broke the silence. Kirt dove for his phone heart pounding. His phone was silent. Kirt pushed himself to his feet and strode to the corner where he’d dumped his uncle’s clothes after managing to get him into his pajamas. His uncle’s phone was still ringing with a very familiar contact on the screen. Kirt picked up.

“Cole, thank God. I’ve been getting ready to come down there and see what the hell was going on.”

“Hi Dad,” Kirt interrupted knowing that sooner was better. He still winced as his father switched from relief to fury.

“Kirt, I’ve been getting your voicemail for the past twelve hours. Where’s Cole?” Daniel demanded. Kirt checked on his uncle who hadn’t stirred either from the phone’s ringtone or the near shouting. Kirt edged around the bed and went to the kitchen as he spoke.

“Uncle Cole is ok. It was-bad,” Kirt had to catch himself from unloading the horror of the past four days. His family’s help would only have caused more damage, but his shoulders were still tight from fear and his tongue lose with relief.

“Bad?” Daniel’s tone changed going softer, “You alright, boy?” Kirt let himself slide down the kitchen wall to the floor.

“I didn’t get hurt- we were on a hunt. We thought it was a single witch, but she had help or something. I think we got stuck out of time for a while. Anyway, the witch is dead, but Cole is out cold. If he doesn’t wake up in six hours I’m taking him to the hospital.” Kirt told his father. His own fear that there was something more wrong easing as he made the decision.

“Make it four, and keep an eye on him. We’ll be coming down-”

“What? Dad, I told you we took care of it.” Kirt leaned forward panic hammering in his blood again. His family could not come to New Orleans. Kirt was completely unprepared to introduce his father to his witch girlfriend and explain how the only reason he’d found Cole had been with her help.

“Your hunt makes it more pressing, but we were going to come anyway. There’s been word all up and down the coast. The witches are planning something big, and they’re coming to you. If we organize this right we can catch all the rats in one trap.” The excitement in Daniel’s voice was unmistakable. Kirt closed his eyes as the panic turned into a throbbing headache.

“When you say ‘we’ who do you-how many are coming?” maybe if there were just a few, but if there was a big Hunt…

“Near about everyone. Your Aunt, Sarah and Tom, Josh’s fiance-you’ll get to meet her. She’s good people. Josh has to stay, it would be too risky with his parole and your momma and Abby need someone to watch out for ‘em.”

“Right,” Kirt said faintly. Dammit, could there not be a single week without a catastrophe? “Um, I’ll get ready for you. Keep me in the loop with this thing, right?”

“You have Cole call me the minute he can. We’ll see you in a day or so, Kirt.” Kirt winced as his father dodged the question.

“Yeah, tell the family I love ‘em.” The line went dead and Kirt stared at his Uncle’s phone. Yeah-this whole semester was a wash.
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I’m a thief as many times before. I stole the first line from Apprentice Never Master. Go check out the thief ring!

Legal Theft: Losing

Torri found herself walking among the dead on an empty battlefield. Her armor was heavy and dented while her sword was nicked and coated with gore. Her eyes glazed over as they stretched over the broken standards and trampled armor. They had lost; she had lost. Despair warred with measured and familiar calm. This was war. So it had been for eternity and so it would be for all time. The clash of conflict and the soldier’s debris should touch her only dimly, and yet her core shook with horror.

A figure moved near the otherside of the field, walking like her between the fallen. She watched him approach and wearily raised her blade. Torri recognized him, dark hair, thin cruel lips, and cold eyes.

“What do you do here?” her voice was steady even if her sword shook slightly. He looked at her and then at himself. Adrastos alone was clean and unwounded.

“I’m not really sure. This isn’t my territory, and I assume your family has more reason to see you.” He tilted his head curiosity growing in his eyes.

“You have no place here. Leave,” Torri ordered and a wind blew across the battlefield ruffling the pennants. Adrastos turned and looked over the dead ignoring her both her order and her still lifted blade.

“Why are you even here? ” Adrastos tilted his head. Torri didn’t have the energy to glare. She searched for a rag and when she couldn’t find one stooped and ripped off a square of cloth from a dead woman’s pant. Slowly she began wiping her blade.

“This is my place,” Torri said at last.

Adrastos sneered at her, “This, this right here; this is why no one likes you.” He opened out a wide palm and gestured at the scene, “and even at this, you failed.” Torri flinched away from his words swinging the point of her sword back to bear on him.

“What would you know about it, torturer? You don’t follow loyalty. You snuck around the field like a jackal cleaning up offal and bones after the lion passes.” The heat of her reply startled a laugh out of him.

“You’re still hung up about that are you? It was centuries-millennia ago-” his eyes narrowed, “is this why you’re still on earth mucking around with the mortals? I know you know what you are. You even know how to return to the godly realms, but you haven’t.”

“We lost,” Torri replied the tip of her blade dipping under the weight of that truth. “What do you expect? Ryan, Sara, and I, we all lost pieces of ourselves here. How can I be a goddess of War where I failed?” The blade twisted in her gut again as she met Ryan’s eyes across the field and nodded agreeing to leave her baby sister behind to help Sara off the field. “I can’t go back. I didn’t let myself hate them then. It was too dangerous. I couldn’t trust myself. This is the only War that ever mattered, and I lost.”

Adrastos’ dark eyes watched her as she spat out the barbs that had been working through her skin, “Yes, you did.” Torri took a deep breath past the lump in her throat. It was this she couldn’t move past. She had lost. She had never grieved for the blow to her sense of self, her confidence, her being. The power of the throne had never appealed, but what she was had been stolen long before she fell from the godly realms into a mortal body. She would not return to what had been home. Not until she could prove what she was to herself.

Torri woke up mid-sob. Her throat was tight and tears were spilling from her closed eyes. She curled into a ball holding onto herself as the sobs tore through her. Mercifully the specific memories were quick to fade, but she remembered how it felt. The bone crushing sense of loss, of her failure burned into her. When Torri could breath she stumbled out of bed and searched for her keys. She needed to not be alone and to apologize to those she had failed.

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Well that got emotional…I stole the line “This, this right here; this is why no one likes you.” from Creatures, Critters and Crawlers. Go check out her story!