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“The trick to finding someone, is to stress them into fleeing,” Tosca said, eyes crinkling. She lifted tattooed fingers to the mask covering her nose and mouth, and inhaled. The blue smoke, rising from the lit cigarette in her hand, disappeared into the fine mesh of her mask with an unpleasant, rasping sound.

“I’d expect this from you, but a priest?” Tosca gestured at Aella. “This saddens me.”

“I was not running,” Glimmer said, eyes defiant. “I was going to Galborea to retrieve your payment.”

Tosca’s brows lifted. “Curious. If you have ties to them, why borrow from me?”

Continuation of Ironblood

(Written for The PredictionChallenge words: trick, inhale, sadden)

on the road north

The evening sky had a queer plum-yellow tint to it on the day Sayla found herself riding north with Warden Draeyn. She had no idea if she could trust the man, but she could not ignore the map, or the hastily penned note from Kalen inside its edge. Follow Draeyn, Sayla, it had read. My life depends on it.

“I prefer traveling at night,” the Warden called back to her. His massive, black stallion snorted, perhaps in agreement.

Sayla eyed the rowan trees along the road’s edge. “Isn’t it more dangerous?”

The Warden’s laugh boomed. “Only if you’re a bandit.”

Continuation of Ironblood

(Written for The PredictionChallenge words: queer, north, rowan)


Aella cauterized the wound with calm efficiency. She eyed Glimmer’s sweat-beaded face as she set aside the heated fire poker, and set to work bandaging her shoulder. “It’s a miracle the bolt didn’t go through your heart.”

Glimmer’s grimace softened. “Lucky for me Tosca employs the cheapest, not the best.”

“I don’t understand why she’d send the Collectors after you. You don’t gamble.”

“I had to do everything I could to find Sayla’s brother…”

“Ah. Does Sayla know?”

“No!” Glimmer blurted. “No. She still does not know about his…crimes.”

“I hardly believe it. Kalen always followed the rules. Always.”

Continuation of Ironblood

(Written for The PredictionChallenge words: cauterise, miracle, Tosca)

hammer & seal

Crafted simply, but skillfully, the colossal hammer resting on the large man’s shoulder seemed at odds with his friendly, sun-beaten face. Staring at it, Sayla could not decide what it was about the weapon that prickled the skin on her arms, and yet the feeling washing over her was gut-souring malevolence.

There was no bloodthirsty zeal in the man to match what she felt from the hammer, and Sayla watched with wary confusion, as the Warden leaned the intimidating weapon against the table, and handed her something from his pocket.

It was a border map, and bore her brother’s seal.

Continuation of Ironblood

(Written for The PredictionChallenge words: border, malevolent, zeal)


Gold eyes met green across the beer-splattered table, neither blinking, as their overturned drinks dripped onto the floor. Hand on her brother’s sword, Sayla could not see a way out of this deadlock. She doubted she could intercept the man’s hand if he lunged with his knife, but perhaps her longer blade would be quicker.

A hand, more boulder than flesh, fell onto her shoulder. “You’ve insulted the maiden,” a jovial voice boomed.

The man facing her gaped, his ruddy cheeks paling. Abruptly, he dropped his knife and straightened fully, raising both palms. “No offense meant, Warden Draeyn.”

Continuation of Ironblood

(Written for The PredictionChallenge words: deadlock, intercept, maiden)

a summons

The sun sat hot and heavy in the bleached sky, and filled the tiled cloister with the heady, too-sweet stench of overripe peaches. Aella, despite being covered in heavy, white robes, seemed comfortable in the heat. Her umber face was dry and calm.

“The summons came, then?” Aella said.

Glimmer nodded, and clutched her waist. “They can’t know, can they?”

Aella’s eyes sharpened beneath the brim of her hat. “No, they would not be so subtle if they suspected. It is merely your time.”

“Sayla said to run.”

“Perhaps. Though the request is valid, there may be time to delay.”

Continuation of Ironblood

(Written for The PredictionChallenge words: brim, cloister, valid)

after I’m gone

Glimmer watched, eyes wet, as Sayla buckled her brother’s sword around her waist. There was a finality in how Sayla tightened the scarred strap, and let her hand linger on the leather-wrapped hilt, before looking up into Glimmer’s eyes.

Both born under the Emerald Moon in the Albaenorin parish, they had been closer than kin, and then closer still.

“After I’m gone, do not let them diagnose you as an Ironblood,” Sayla said. “Leave with Aella, if it comes to that.”

“But how will you find me? It may be years…”

Sayla kissed her. “I will always find you.”

Beginning of Ironblood

(Written for The PredictionChallenge words: buckle, diagnose, parish)

the trees

Harriet did not like trees. There was something sinister about how they leaned, silently observing, refusing to intercede. Oh you might see a branch sway, perhaps get a pinecone dropped on your head, but beyond that, nothing.

Mama said trees were an allegory about the insignificance of man. Insignificance, Harriet understood.

Trees lined the road Harriet walked every day, and as she marched past, with hood drawn up and eyes narrowed, she’d hear them whisper. She listened to their vulgar murmurs with gritted teeth, and stayed in the center of the road.

“I don’t trust you either,” she whispered back.

(Written for The PredictionChallenge words: allegory, trust, vulgar)

drinking with Mama

The coffee percolates on the table, dripping black into Mama’s favorite mug. I dump the grounds in the trash, avoiding your eyes, and wrap my fingers around the cracked, cactus-covered porcelain.

“You have to talk to me,” you say.

I think about pouring gin into my coffee, and when I look up, I know you’ve read my mind.

You look sad, and I almost hate you for it. “Let her go, Waverly. It’s been months.”

I open my mouth, but Mama scowls at me from behind your shoulder.

“Let her go,” she says.

I sigh. If only dead meant dead.

(Written for The PredictionChallenge words: cactus, gin, percolate)


Cass was regretfully introduced to the feckless Rendal the following day, when she was compelled to firmly dissuade an errant hand on her backside with a few choice words, and a firmly-wielded dagger.

He was greasy and unkempt, with long, blond lashes that fluttered and clumped around his bloodshot eyes. Apparently given to ear-grating tautology, Rendal babbled endless excuses and apologies, until Cass cut him off with a firm wiggle of the blade.

“Sir,” she said, narrowing her eyes as his mouth gaped in a silent yawn. “Perhaps your energy would be better spent on catching the Red Lady’s killer.”

Continuation of The Red Lady

(Written for The PredictionChallenge words: grease, tautology, yawn)