Short Tales

book-759873_1280Welcome to Short Tales!

Interested in reading a short story or two? Here you’ll find tales of mystery, fantasy, science fiction, and romance written by Laura Seeber and  various guest authors from time to time. The selection will change on a regular basis, and you can always be sure that you’ll be getting the best that we can provide.

    Target Acquired

    train-station-691176_1280Marcus watched the man closely. He was moving with a powerful stride down the busy street towards the underground subway station. Marcus knew that there was only one chance and it was coming up soon. He nodded briefly; the signal was sent.

    An older woman stepped out in front of the man, lugging a wheeled suitcase, three bags of groceries, and a purse on her right arm. Her hair was a magnificent site, tight curls, and blue-gray in color. Marcus watched as the man wrinkled his nose at the new obstacle. Clearly, this man had more important things to do.

    With a cry, the woman buckled to her knees right in front of the man, and Marcus seized the opportunity.

    “Oh my goodness!” exclaimed the woman as cans of peas and a box of linguine scattered on the ground. “Oh, bother!”

    The man stooped down, and picked up one of the cans, handing it to her outstretched hand.

    “Are you all right, Miss?” he inquired politely, his eyes glancing toward stairs down to the subway.

    “Oh! Oh yes, of course,” she said. “Just a bit unsteady on my feet, I'm afraid. These heels are such a bother, sometimes!”

    The man stood up and felt something brush lightly against his side. He turned to see Marcus striding past him going the opposite direction. His cell phone was to his ear talking earnestly.

    “That man's going to get robbed, talking on the phone like that,” he said with a grin. “Not paying attention at all. Here, let me help you up.”

    The lady smiled up at him and reached for his outstretched hand.

    “Why, thank you, young man,” she said. “I really wish there were more people in the world like you.”

    The man hauled her up to her feet.

    “Are you going to the subway?”

    “Oh no, my apartment is only a block or two past. I take the bus home and then walk the extra bit. Good for the health, you know.”

    “Well, please forgive me, but I must get going. I've got a train to catch. Are you sure you're all right?”

    “Yes, of course, dear.”

    The woman smiled and waved goodbye as the man dashed down the stairs to the subway platform. He would make it of course. No sense in having him stay around here longer than needed. They had planned it that way.

    The lady shuffled down the street another block and turned down a nearby alley. She pulled off her wig and tossed it into a nearby trash dumpster and itched her short-cropped hair. Those things were always so itchy.

    “I'm surprised you threw that thing away,” said Marcus from the other end of the alleyway. “You make a pretty good old lady.”

    “Gee, thanks,” said the woman dryly. “So when is it your turn to be the decoy, huh? That's six marks in a row that I've had to wear this outrageous getup.”

    “What, don't like being a grandma in heels anymore, Shelia?”

    Shelia frowned.

    “No, I don't. So when do I get to do it?”

    Marcus turned away, motioning her to follow.

    “When you get better at being unnoticeable,” he said.

    Shelia sighed.

    “So what'd we get?” she asked, widening her step to catch up to him. She grabbed at his arm, trying to peek over his shoulder. Marcus smiled slightly; Shelia's head barely came up to it.

    “Later,” he admonished. “We'll take a look at what we gathered today when we get back home. Right now we need to get away from here.”

    “You've already dumped the wallets, right?”

    “Of course. Scoop out the billfolds and leave the rest. We don't need anything that can be traced, right?”

    “Right,” said Shelia, smiling. She took off her heels and placed them into her wheeled luggage case and brought out her favorite sneakers. She slipped them on her feet, and Marcus laughed slightly as she sighed in relief.

    “Feel better now?”

    “Much.”

    “All right,” he said reaching for her hand. “Let's go home.”

    Detective Lynch sat down on the subway bench and exhaled. Hopefully, the repairs to his car would be finished soon. This daily commute to the subway was getting quite exhausting. Still, it was nice to have someone else doing the driving for once. He leaned back and closed his eyes for a brief moment, and felt his jacket shift against his shirt. He frowned.

    The tell-tale lump of his wallet and his badge were gone.

    “Shit!”

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    To The End - Part 4

    Kalees blinked once, and then again.

    “Well, this certainly changes things,” he said, sitting down next to Mythrin and Kirian. “Are you sure, Mythrin?”

    Mythrin nodded.

    “Absolutely,” he said. “It's her. There is no doubt in my mind.”

    “Well then, why has she been living alone as a man in the Crimson Mist forest for so long?” asked Kalees. “The forest borders both our lands. Kirian would know that, either from being here, or through her memory of the maps in the castle. Right?”

    “Yes, of course,” said Mythrin. “Of course, she would.”

    “Then why wouldn't Kirian use that knowledge to get back home?” asked Kalees gently.

    “The Crimson Mist Forest is a dangerous place,” answered Mythrin. “Everyone knows that. She probably didn't feel comfortable venturing into the heart of it. She is a noble woman, after all.”

    “And yet she felt comfortable enough to completely change her appearance, to live as a man, and make her home within it for a decade?” Kalees shook his head. “Forgive me, Mythrin, but I cannot resolve those two ideas so easily. Besides, if this is Princess Tiriana, I doubt a mere haunted forest would have stopped her from returning to you.”

    “Then something must have kept her here,” said Mythrin as he laid the princess down gently on the ground. “Perhaps a powerful magic.”

    “I don't think so,” said Kalees, looking at the forest. “I think the only magic here is the magic of stories and legends. I'm surprised that you don't see that, Mythrin.”

    “Well, how else would you explain it, then?”

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    To The End Part 3

    Mythrin turned back to face the creature that existed now within Kirian. No, that wasn't right. Mythrin suspected that the beast had always been there, just beneath the surface. And now it had broken through, snapping the lock to its cage.

    file7051268278381Kirian bent down, his fingers spread out, resting lightly on the ground, the tips curled slightly as if claws were scraping against the ground. His breath came hard and fast, his chest and shoulders heaving, his eyes darting from Mythrin to the trees, and back again.

    “Kirian,” said Mythrin slowly.

    Kirian snarled at him, the white of his teeth glinting in the sunlight. Mythrin watched as the young man lowered his body, bending his strong legs, preparing to pounce.

    “Kirian, I know you can hear me,” said Mythrin, taking a small step forward. As soon as his foot landed, Mythrin realized his mistake. Kirian's eyes flashed, and he leaped forward, his hands snapping out toward Mythrin, his fingers curled. Mythrin stepped back, twisting his torso, feeling a gust of the wind as Kirian snatched at the air just before him.

    Instinctively, Mythrin raised his arm to block the next attack, and watched in amazement as a foot, not the other arm, landed a solid blow into his mid-section. He felt his body crumple under the weight of Kirian, and the two men tumbled to the ground.

    “Uff!” said Mythrin, his breath escaping his body as his back slammed against the ground. Grabbing both of Kirian's arms, he brought his own legs up and tried to launch the young man over his head. It was a move he had seen Kalees do numerous times before.

    It didn't work. Mythrin simply could not get the power to his legs.

    Kirian snarled again, and brought his head sharply down, hitting Mythrin on the forehead, once and then again. Both men howled, and Kirian tried desperately to free his arms from Mythrin's grasp. He thrashed and twisted, the beast in him becoming more and more panicked.

    “Kirian,” said Mythrin softly, his eyes demanding attention, his grip tightening. “Kirian, I know you're in there. Please, don't do this.”

    Mythrin blinked, a mixture of blood and tears clouding his vision. The urge to wipe away the blood flowing from his head was overwhelming. But he resisted. There was no way he was going to let go. Kirian's eyes flashed, and for an instant, Mythrin saw a flicker of doubt. He steeled himself and tried again to take advantage of the situation.

    “Please, Kirian,” he said, searching the young man's eyes, hoping for another flicker. “It's me, Mythrin. You've seen into my mind. You know me. I'm not here to hurt you. You know that. Please, come back to me.”

    Kirian looked up sharply, and Mythrin twisted underneath him, trying to see what had drawn his attention.

    “Oh no,” groaned Mythrin. “No! Dammit! I told you to keep him--”

    Mythrin watched helplessly as Kalees leaped forward, striking Kirian square in the face. Kirian arched his back, and Mythrin lets go, fearing that his grasp would now cause more harm than good. Kirian tumbled backwards, shook his head, and quickly brought his body back into a crouching position. Kalees towered over him, his face purple with rage.

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    To The End-- Part 2

    Mythrin looked over the destroyed campsite, surveying the damage. He stomped out a few of the scattered embers with his boot.

    “I never thought a stampede could happen at night,” he muttered.

    “It's known to happen sometimes,” answered Brother Ystril, leading the two horses back to the campsite, their tails flicking nervously. “It's all right, girl.” He reached up and stroked the mare's neck. She flinched slightly but allowed his touch.

    “Is everyone all right?” Brother Ystril asked, looking around. “Where are Brother Ptolec and Brother Kalees?”

    “Over here!” called Brother Ptolec coming into the clearing, holding Kalees around the waist, his arm draped over the monk's shoulders. Mythrin's eyes widened and he went to them.

    “What happened?” he asked, helping Brother Ptolec lower Kalees to the ground. “Did he get caught in the stampede? Why is he all wet? Kalees! Wake up!”

    Brother Ptolec shook his head, standing up to stretch his full frame.

    “We had to go into the water to avoid the stampede,” he said with a frown. “He got brushed by a few animals, but nothing that would cause this.”

    “Help me get him out of these wet clothes,” ordered Mythrin as he tugged on Kalees' sleeves. “He's ice cold! Brother Ystril-- build the fire back up, and quickly. How long has he been like this?”

    He looked squarely at the two monks. Each one shook their heads in bewilderment.

    “He seemed fine earlier today,” said Brother Ystril. “Looked a little tired, perhaps….”

    “Well, something happened!” snapped Mythrin. He breathed in, calming his nerves. “Forgive me. That tone was uncalled for.”

    Brother Ptolec shook his head as he tugged off Kalees' pants.

    “No, you're right to be upset,” he said quietly. “We should have noticed this sooner. Mythrin, you're a healer, right? What should we do?”

    “We need to try and bring his body temperature up,” said Mythrin, glancing at the fire that Brother Ystril was quickly rebuilding. “I don't think the fire will be enough, though.”

    “Right,” said Brother Ptolec, taking off his robe. He sat behind Kalees, pulling the body into a sitting position.

    Brother Ystril looked on in amazement.

    “Brother Ptolec, what are you doing?” he asked.

    “No, he's got the right idea,” said Mythrin quickly. "His body heat should help to warm Kalees up. Here! Give this saddle blanket to him.”

    Brother Ystril placed the blanket around the two naked men, averting his eyes carefully. Brother Ptolec shifted slightly, hoping to relieve the growing discomfort in his groin area. Now was not the time for such things.

    “Thanks,” said Brother Ptolec, glancing at Brother Ystril with a smile. “This should help.”

    Mythrin glanced over, pulling a few things out of his satchel.

    “Is he still breathing?” he asked. “How is his heartbeat?”

    “His breathing is slow,” said Brother Ptolec, leaning forward, his hands snaking up his chest. “His heartbeat is faint, but it's still there.”

    Mythrin nodded, hanging Kalees' clothes over the fire. Kalees would hate the scent of smoke on his clothes, but Mythrin didn't really care.

    “That's a good sign,” he said quietly. “Keep trying to warm him up. Until we figure out what has caused this, that's all we can do.”

    Brother Ptolec leaned back slightly and moved Kalees' wet braid out of the way. In the firelight, he saw a mark on Kalees' neck, red and swollen. His fingers reached up to it, touching it gently. It quivered under his touch.  Dark lines pulsated from it. Brother Ptolec swallowed.

    “Brother Mythrin, Brother Ystril,” he called out quietly, his voice cutting through the darkness. “Come look at this.”

    Brother Ystril and Mythrin came over and looked at mark, each shifting themselves to prevent their shadows from blocking the firelight.

    “What is that?” asked Mythrin, frowning in puzzlement. “I've never seen anything quite like it. Three puncture wounds close together in a triangular shape? And what are those lines radiating from it?”

    Brother Ystril swallowed hard.

    “That's the bite mark of a chulol,” he said quietly. “Here, I still have the scar from mine.” Brother Ystril pulled up his sleeve. Mythrin glanced down, seeing three close-knit puncture wound scars just above the bend in his elbow.

    “The chulol… that's what almost killed you, right?”

    Brother Ystril nodded.

    “How long ago was he bit?” asked Brother Ptolec. Mythrin frowned.

    “He complained about an insect bite before we came to the path strewn with rocks,” he said quietly. "Could that have been it?”
    “Probably,” said Brother Ystril with a shake of his head. “Almost a full day. Maybe more. This isn't good.”

    “How far is it to the Crimson Mist Forest, from here?” asked Brother Ptolec.

    “A full day of hard riding,”  answered Brother Ystril. “But even then, there's little chance of finding--”

    “It's a chance that we'll have to take,” said Mythrin nodding his head. “Here, Brother Ptolec. Use my cloak to clothe Kalees for now. Brother Ystril, can you find the way again?”

    Brother Ptolec took the cloak and gathered it around Kalees body.

    “What about his clothes?” he asked.

    “We'll bring them as we travel,” said Mythrin, taking the damp clothes and placed them in the saddle bag. I'll see about drying them when we get closer to our destination.”

    “This will stall the negotiations,” warned Brother Ystril. “Your king will certainly not be pleased.”

    “That is not my concern,” said Mythrin shortly. “But you do raise a point, Brother Ystril. Once we find this Kirian, I will send word with you to the kingdom of Turel. Brother Ptolec will guide us the rest of the way from there. Agreed?”

    Brother Ystril nodded.

    “But what of sending word to your kingdom?” he asked. “Should they not be made known of the delay as well?”

    “From what I understand, King Rakin will be traveling to the western front to meet with his generals there. It will be at least a week before he seeks news of the negotiations. We have some time.”

    “Your king sends negotiators to his enemy, and yet he still attacks?”

    “And defends,” added Mythrin with a wry smile. “The western boundaries of Urela have been under constant attack from Turel warriors for three and a half months now.”

    “I see.”

    “That is of little consequence now,” growled Brother Ptolec. He mounted the horse and reached down for Kalees. “Forgive me, Brother Mythrin. You do not have the strength to both control a horse and keep Kalees from falling off.”

    “Agreed,” said Mythrin as both he and Brother Ystril strained to get Kalees up on the horse. “Brother Ystril and I will take the other one.”

    “These horses are going to deserve a good brushing, some hay, and a bath after this,” said Brother Ystril with a smile.

    “I'll feed them a bushel of apples each if they get us to where we need to be,” said Brother Ptolec, stroking the horses neck. The horse neighed.

    “Let's get going,” said Brother Ystril as Mythrin mounted the horse behind him. "We've got a lot of ground to cover, and not much time.”

    forest-483207_1280

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    To The End -- Part 1

    file0001476330609Mythrin pulled a silver pocket watch from beneath his cloak and whistled softly. He was going to be late; this wasn't good at all. To keep an advisor of the royal court waiting might be considered a hanging offense in the Kingdom of Urela.

    He quickened his pace, allowing his strides to lengthen against the stone and wood tile floor beneath him. He turned left down another hallway, went down a short flight of stairs, and then right, and went up a few more steps to a pair of double wooden doors, the heavy metal door handles beckoning him. He complied to their invite with a push.

    “Is he here?” Mythrin asked as he walked into the room. He looked around, noted the ornate wooden table, the velvet lined chairs, the tapestries on the wall, the seemingly hundreds of scrolls lining the walls, and the single person looking over at him and smiling.

    “Not yet,” said the young man, tossing a few blond hairs from in front of his eyes. “Looks like you just made it, though. Why don't you come in and have a seat, Mythrin?”

    “Thanks, Kalees,” said Mythrin as he came further into the room. “I didn't expect to see you here. Since when do you help out with negotiations?”

    Kalees gave a shrug, winced, and pulled his long braid out from between his back and the high-backed chair.

    “Honestly, it's not my cup of tea,” said Kalees easily. “I'd rather be out exploring, but the royal court thought that you might need protection on your travels.”

    “Seriously?” asked Mythrin. “I'm to be protected by a scout?”

    “That is not his only job, in this case, Mythrin,” said a voice from the doorway. The two men turned in their chairs to see the advisor standing there in all his purple and gold-trimmed robed glory. He was even wearing a matching hat. Both Kalees and Mythrin rose out of respect, Mythrin noting that Kalees' hand went to cover his mouth, a small sparkle flashing across his eyes.

    “And what job would that be?” asked Mythrin, raising his eyebrows, slightly.

    The advisor shook his head slightly and glided to the desk, ignoring Mythrin's question. Mythrin sighed inwardly.

    “The kingdom of Urela has determined that the best course of action is to pursue a cessation of hostilities with the Kingdom of Turel to the north,” he said, his voice coming fast and rhythmic as if reciting a lesson for his master. “You, Mythrin, as one of the scholar class have been designated to travel into the kingdom of Turel, meet with two members of the Turel Brothers Class, and open negotiations with the royal court of Turel, such that it is.”

    “I understand this,” said Mythrin quietly. “What I do not understand, is why--”

    “Kalees, you're mission is three-fold. First, you are to use your abilities and military training to protect and guide Mythrin as he travels to meet the designated brothers. Second, you will observe and note any characteristics of the Turel Kingdom that might be of interest to the King of Urela. Third, if negotiations shall fail, you are to get word to the royal court as soon as possible.”

    Kalees nodded, and spoke quickly, glancing over at Mythrin's eyes, flashing cold and gray.

    “I understand, although I doubt Mythrin will need much protection from me,” he said with a laugh. “He is well known among the men as being one of the ablest fighters known.”

    “Hmph,” answered the advisor with a scowl. “I suppose even a scholar can have some skill with a dagger.” He glanced down at Mythrin, who answered his gaze with one of his own. Mythrin smiled softly, and the court advisor swallowed quickly.

    “You have three days to travel to the southern gate of the Turel Kingdom, where we have gained permission for you to enter. While in route, you will be met by two Brothers of the Turel Kingdom, who will provide you with the location of the southern gate.”

    “How will we know who they are?” asked Mythrin, pulling a black hair from the edge of his cloak. The advisor sighed, a frown of disdain crossing over his face.

    “They will have the mark of the kingdom of Turel, of course,” he said. “And they will know of your route. That should be sufficient, correct?”

    “Hardly,” said Mythrin looking up sharply. “First, a mark can easily--”

    Kalees placed his hand gently on the forearm of Mythrin, trying to calm the tension that was rumbling just below the surface.

    “Mythrin does raise a valid point,” his gaze darting between the two men. “A mark is easy to copy. Should we not also know their names, or even what they look like? It would be easier to determine if something is amiss if we have at least that little bit of information.”

    “Hmm. You do have a valid point, Kalees,” he said with a nod. Mythrin gripped the edge of his chair, and breathed, maintaining control as best he could.

    “Their names are Brother Ptolec and Brother Ystril,” he said. They are considered to be scholars, or some sort of religious monks, so chances are they will be mighty in mind, but frail in spirit and body. I also understand that it is common for the Brothers of Turel to shave their heads. Strange custom, considering how desolate and cold it is in that region of the world.”

    “And what words of negotiation do we bring from our king?” asked Mythrin.

    “The wise and fierce king of Urela wishes to provide the kingdom of Turel with the opportunity to cease hostilities against the kingdom of Urela,” said the royal advisor easily. “Once the king of Turel provides proof to the satisfaction of the King of Urela, he personally promises to allow trade and supplies to flow into the kingdom through the western and southern trade routes, as escorted into the kingdom of Turel by our military. The king also graciously offers to allow those of Turel descent who have stayed within the kingdom of Urela to return to their homes, provided that they have not been convicted of a serious crime.”

    Mythrin frowned. This sounded more like conditions of surrender than negotiations. But, he saw no point in saying such things.

    “Sounds like you are negotiating their surrender,” said Kalees with a smile. “Is that our aim? Their surrender?”

    The court advisor shrugged, his cloak billowing slightly as he exhaled.

    “The end result will be the same,” he said plainly. “The people of Turel are obviously tired of fighting us. Their kingdom is in ruins. They will be glad of what we are offering them.”

    Kalees raised his eyebrows and whistled softly.

    “Your certainty takes my breath away, master advisor,” he said.

    “Thank you, Kalees.”

    “Now, horses will be provided, as well as enough supplies for the travel to the kingdom of Turel, and for the trip back. I trust you will make sure the scholar does not squander the supplies unnecessarily, Kalees.”

    Mythrin tilted his head slightly to the side. He was no longer angry, not really. Now he was just amazed.

    “I do not see that as a problem,” said Kalees with a smile. “Will there be anything else, master advisor?”

    “No. Your horses and supplies will be waiting for you in the second western stable by dawn's light.”

    Kalees stood and bowed, and Mythrin followed his lead.

    “For the glory of Urela,” announced the court advisor, stretching his arms out in triumph.

    “For the glory!” echoed Mythrin and Kalees, their voices caressing the advisor as he glided out of the room, never looking back.

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