First, some gratuitous self-promotion. LOOK TO YOUR RIGHT! See that link there? Where it says RISING is Coming Soon? It’s a sign-up for for publication information on Rising: Book One of the Adept Cycle. SignUpNow! 😀 Now, back to your regularly scheduled blog post….
Results are in, round 2 is done, and I’m ready for a month vacation.
My round 1 story, Curiosity Kills the Cat (password: NYCFlashRound1) scored 9 points. That’s 7th place… out of about 40 people in my heat. I’m trying to be happy with that score. I mean really… it’s awesome. That’s an 82.5%, if you take it mathematically out across the group. It’s the upper end of the bell curve.
I had several people from the competition tell me I was robbed! LOL
That’s okay… honestly, I don’t do NYCFlash to win. I do it for the forums, and all of the awesome people who participate. I do it to stretch my writing skills, and force myself outside of my comfort zone. I participate to read as much as I do to write. The talent and dedication and grit that I see in the forums is inspiring!
So, when Round 2 came up, and I got my prompt – Suspense / A Bakery / A Mask – and after much dying on the inside, I started writing the next installment of my story from round 1. I had so many people saying, “I hope we see Spartacus again!” So I decided, what the hell? The genre fits. I can make easy use of the rest of the prompt. FUN! I might not score a single point, but whatever. I loved writing it.
I got 200 words in and stalled out. HARD. I flailed and whined and considered punching rainbows. Then I read what I had out-loud to my better half, and when I got to the end, he said (in his best announcer-voice): Tune in next week for the exciting conclusion of…
I lost it. Laughed my ass off. I wasn’t sure if it was nervousness or giddiness, too much caffeine or borderline-insanity… but I decided to go complete Radio Serial on my piece. I think the end result is quite fun! And it’s giving me the drive and desire to pick this up and turn it into something much larger!
Anyway, enough of my blathering… without wasting more of your precious time, I give you…
The Day Off
– A Coven Thirteen Mission –
For Spartacus, there’s no such thing as a day off.
Group 33, Round 2 – Suspense. A bakery. A mask.
Spartacus circled the perimeter of the courtyard outside Two Dogs Bakery. His whiskers twitched as he sniffed the light breeze.
Yeast. Tea. Coffee. Honey. Whew! The guy at the next table really needs a shower. He curled his tail and rubbed the full length of his body against Luna’s leg. This is information overload. I don’t like it.
“Will you relax?” Luna said through a bite of her pumpkin cookie. She pushed her blonde braid over her shoulder and relaxed back into in her chair. “We’re off duty for the day. I even bought you a tuna sandwich.”
Spartacus nipped at the flaky fish, his ears picking up every sound.
A distinctive odor of canine filth combined with mothballs and patchouli, slight but startling, ripped Spartacus from his meal. He focused on the scent and projected the sensation to Luna. She set down her treat and glanced over her shoulder. Spartacus felt their bond as Luna’s presence flowed into him. She ran a hand along his spine, and he arched into her petting.
It’s Siobhan and Grumblegus, Luna said in thought, but where are they?
A cry of shock erupted from Luna. Spartacus’s pulse quickened as he watched a black mask blink into existence and slip over Luna’s eyes. Before either of them could react, tendrils snaked down Luna’s arms from the mask, lashing her wrists and ankles to the chair. A gag formed to silence the spell that she’d begun chanting.
Their familiar link cut off abruptly.
Spartacus spun, looking for Siobhan. The other patrons sat at their tables, eating their treats and sipping their coffee. Talking. Laughing. Oblivious. He let out a long yowl.
“Get outta here, cat!” A teenage busboy with a shock of red hair and a pockmarked face chased after Spartacus, waving his broom.
How can they not see Luna?
Lashed to the chair, blinded and gagged, Luna struggled against her bonds. Spartacus leapt, aiming for her lap, but the chair began to float up, backward. He fell short of the chair and tumbled.
A faint buzzing pricked at his ears. He focused upward toward the sound, crouching, ready to spring. He studied the air above Luna. His tail flicked back and forth as he switched his sight through each of the visible spectrums.
In the ultraviolet range, he caught the faint outline of a massive bee hovering just above Luna. Leather tendrils extended from her bonds to the bee.
Great, Siobhan tamed the Spelling Bee. Spartacus winced. According to Coven Thirteen Ops, his mission to thwart Siobhan’s attempt to create the forbidden immortality formula was successful. However, in the process, his curiosity got the better of him, and he accidentally created the spell-slinging bee that now carried Luna away.
The whack of a broom wrenched Spartacus from his thoughts and sent him sprawling as the boy continued to chase him. Spartacus sprang to his feet and darted through the bars of the iron fence surrounding the bakery courtyard. He positioned himself under Luna’s chair as it drifted higher. Luna’s head lolled to the side and her arms went slack.
Panic rose in his belly. The bee flew down an alley. Spartacus followed, dashing behind a dumpster in an attempt to escape the wild swings of the broom-wielding teen. He skidded to a stop at the lumbering mass of dog that stood in his path.
Poor kitty, cut off and all alone. Grumblegus lunged, snapping his heavy jaws.
Spartacus brandished his claws and dodged, but miscalculated and hit the dumpster. Grumblegus’s slobbering mouth closed around Spartacus’s flank. The dog tossed his head, sending Spartacus flying up into the air like a squeaky toy.
Spartacus contorted his body, twisting midair, dodging the dog’s powerful jaws. His claws caught purchase on Grumblegus’s ear and nose. He dug in with all his strength. Grumblegus shook his head with a yelp, flinging Spartacus to the ground.
A gleeful cackle sounded from the corner as Spartacus rolled up onto his haunches. The façade of the busboy shifted and faded, revealing a wire-haired woman wearing a patchwork cloak.
Siobhan! Spartacus yowled. He faced off with Grumblegus. Where are you taking Luna?
Oh, just a little place we like to call “the afterlife.” Grumblegus said, closing the gap on Spartacus, while Siobhan advanced on his six.
“I’ve heard losing a familiar can be quite painful for the witch. Deadly, even.” Siobhan lifted her broom, and a crackle of energy danced upon its bristles. Her wrinkled face drew up in a tight smile and her eyes narrowed. “Let’s find out just how many lives you have left, Spartacus.”
The ultraviolet spectrum flared As Siobhan chanted. Spartacus glanced around for options. His gaze rested on Grumblegus and he chortled a meow. How about Siobhan finds out how it feels to lose her familiar‽
Spartacus darted toward Grumblegus, diving beneath the dog’s feet. Siobhan followed her target, arcing lightning from her broom toward the fleeing cat.
What the— Grumblegus scrambled backward. Siobhan’s bolt caught Grumblegus dead on, and he howled as he collapsed. A fork of the lightning caught Spartacus, spinning him into the brick wall of the bakery.
With an anguished cry, Siobhan raced to her companion’s side.
Spartacus could hear Grumblegus’s labored breathing. Siobhan stroked her familiar while pulling a small vial from her belt pouch. She rubbed the tincture onto the dog’s lips, and he shrunk to a miniature version of himself. With Grumblegus held safely in stasis and tucked into her belt pouch, Siobhan rose to face Spartacus. Crossing her bony arms over her chest, she offered a smug grin.
“Good luck finding us, cat. Coven Thirteen is about to become Coven Twelve.”
* * * * *
Will Spartacus find Luna in time to save her, or will Siobhan finally vanquish Coven Thirteen Ops and regain the secrets of immortality?
Tune in next week for another installment of The Coven Thirteen Missions!