Thursday, December 6, 2012

Free Fiction - Broken Coven

Today I have some free fiction for you. The story has been languishing in publication purgatory for awhile now. I wrote it back in 2009 and it has been accepted for publication twice and twice the magazines or anthologies went belly up before publication. It was kind of fun to read through it again, I can see that I know a lot more about story telling than I did then. This one relies heavily on action scenes to carry the story, I think I am a little creating a plot now, but it is a fun story. Anyway I’ll let you guys decide. Happy Reading!
Broken Coven
By Alva J. Roberts
The world was a wasted, burning Hell. The asphalt streets were cracked and pitted, the buildings burnt out husks that stretched like skeletal fingers toward the blackened sky. Ash formed thick grey clouds that blotted out the sun and fell like snow to cover the wasted landscape. Bodies lay strewn about the street, barely visible beneath the ash. Death had come quickly, most still lay where they had been standing, dying unaware of their impending doom. The fires flared brighter and brighter until they engulfed everything within sight.
Morgan sat up with a start, cold sweat pouring down her face, plastering her long shimmering black hair to her forehead. Sometimes being a witch was not all it was cracked up to be. Dreams of the future were all well and good, until you dreamed of the end of the world.
Her hand reached over to the nightstand, flicking on the table lamp. Her fingers dialed a number on her cell phone, seemingly of their own accord. No answer. She dialed again.
“This better be important! God! It’s three in the morning.”
“Madelyn, it’s time. Meet me at the house,” Morgan said, hanging up the phone. Maddy would know what it meant. They had not spoken for almost a century. There was only one reason she would call.
Morgan dressed in faded blue jeans and a black t-shirt. She went to the closet and pulled out a small duffle bag. She dumped its contents, her gym clothes, onto the floor and filled the bag with items from the large chest that sat at the foot of her bed. Potions and items of magic quickly filled the bag.
She wished the bag could carry more but her days of altering the fabric of reality were nearly over. Her power was barely strong enough to keep her youthful appearance. She had little to spare for other things. A shiver ran down her spine. Her power had to be sufficient. She was the only one who could stop the coming cataclysm.
She took a long, deep breath to steady her nerves before leaving her small apartment. After more than a thousand years of life, she should have been ready for death, but fear churned in her belly and brought bile to her throat. But if you didn’t let fear overwhelm you, you could use it; bend it to your will. Fear could enhance your senses and keep you alive when nothing else would.
Morgan hurried down the hall of her apartment building. The elevator seemed to take forever to reach her floor and the ride down to the lobby even longer. The bottom floor of the apartment complex was thankfully empty, she needed no prying eyes. There was no doubt that an onlooker would have seen her for what she was, a woman preparing for war.
Morgan hurried down the street. There was no parking in front of her apartment complex. She had to park her car over a block away, near where a group of disheveled looking men lounged on the corner. The raw pungent smell of whiskey and unwashed flesh hung thick in the air near the men.
“Hey lady, you got any change?” A rough voice called out.
“No,” Morgan replied, without looking at the man. She didn’t have time for this.
“Maybe you got something else for me then?” The man focused a leering smile on Morgan. “You’re the prettiest lady I seen in a long, long time. If I can’t get no bread, maybe I can get a little sugar.”
The large man moved toward her. He wore stained dirty blue jeans and a thick brown coat that looked as if it had been salvaged from a garbage can. To most women he would have been an imposing sight on a dark street at three in the morning.
Morgan sighed. She had been dealing with bandits and outlaws for a very long time. Humanity had not changed a bit in all her centuries of life. Oh, they had advanced technologically, but at their core they were still animals, barely more than the viscously cruel apes that had evolved into an apex predator in the jungles of Africa. There advancement had only brought all new levels of barbarism.
“I do not have time for your impertinence. You will sleep now! May nightmares haunt your dreams,” she hissed. An eerie green light illuminated the corner for just a second, a by-product of using her power. Magic bent the light around it causing colored light, every witches magic bent light into a different spectrum of color.
“I will sleep now,” the man repeated in a stunned monotone. He dropped to the ground, asleep before he hit the pavement. The other men stared at her in wary fear, like wolves who suddenly found the deer they were hunting was a lion.
Morgan pulled out her keys as she stepped over the man’s prone form, clicking the remote start on her keychain. It was a chilly fall night. It would be nice to let the car warm up for a bit before she climbed in.
An explosion thundered through the parking lot, echoing off the nearby buildings. A ball of fire blossomed upward, appearing where her car had once been. The force of the blast knocked her off her feet. The men sprinted away; they wanted no part of what was to come.
Morgan rose slowly, watching as her car burned in the crisp air. She had expected an attack, but not a car bomb. It was unlike Maeve to use such mundane tactics. She was going to have to take a cab.
She pulled her cell phone from her purse and called a Taxi Service. The man on the other end of the line spoke in accented broken English, but she thought he seemed where to pick her up. Hopefully he really did what a bitter irony it would be if the world ended due to a language barrier.
A sharp pain tore through her shoulder. Her cell phone fell from nerveless fingers as her hand darted to the ache. The fingers came away covered in warm, sticky blood. Wispy tendrils of steam rose off the crimson fluid in the cold air.
“Hey, Morgan. That was a warning shot, for all the good times we shared. Go home! Just leave it alone,” a strange, vibrating voice urged.
She turned to look at the speaker. He was a short figure in a long trench coat. He held a ball of what looked like needles. Morgan knew that he was holding the end of his tail, and that he could fire those needles just like a gun. What little of his skin she could see was red and covered in scales.
“Maeve sent one of her experiments to deal with me,” Morgan said. She was offended. Did Maeve really think she was that weak?
“You know I don’t like to be called an experiment. I got a name.”
“I know, Bobby. I helped make you. She didn’t even tell you why she sent you out, did she? It doesn’t matter. You should have left when I did.”
Flickering green light flooded the area as fire erupted from the street.
Bobby screamed as the fire crawled up his long trench coat, he let go of his tail trying to beat out the flames. The smell of burnt flesh filled the air. Morgan felt some the tension drain from her shoulders. With his hands off his tail he would not be able to fire the deadly projectiles. He fell to the ground, smoke rising from his still form.
“I’m sorry, Bobby,” Morgan said. A wave of guilt assaulted her. Bobby was little more than a slave and in a way Morgan was his mother. She and Maeve had created the little man for protection during the Inquisition. It did not seem right; Bobby’s reward for centuries of service was painful agonizing death. She shook her head, trying to shake away the feeling. There was no time for guilt or sadness.
She needed to get to the house. If Maeve sent Bobby there would be others coming and not all could be so easily dealt with. She reached into her duffle bag and pulled out a bottle of thick, red liquid.
She swallowed the foul tasting concoction in a single gulp. The pain in her shoulder vanished. There was on odd tingle as her flesh knit itself back together.
 It was her last healing potion, she should have brewed more. But she hadn’t known the world was ending.
“Hey! What happened to that guy? I’ll call 911 you check for a pulse,” the cab driver yelled from an open window. She had not seen the car pull up.
“Stop! You have seen nothing. You will drive me,” Morgan called out, using her magic. Green light engulfed the cab driver as her enchantment flowed over him. A crippling wave of dizziness slammed into her, she stumbled and leaned against the nearby light pole.
She was using too much of her power. It had been years since she used so much magic.
“I have seen nothing. I will drive you,” the driver said in a cold, hollow voice.
Morgan climbed into the backseat of the black sedan, grateful to be sitting down. She felt weaker than she had in centuries. She had to keep going, but her body protested, demanding a large meal, a warm bath, and soft bed.
“Where we headed?” the man asked cheerfully, unaware of the smoking remains a few feet from his car.
Almost an hour later the Taxi turned onto a rural road, the lights of the city far behind. Trees cloaked the landscape in thick foliage and menacing shadows. They had made sure that the House was far from prying eyes.
“How much farther?” the driver asked.
“Not far.”
“You better be able to pay for this.”
“You will be more than adequately compensated. Just drive.”
The driver grunted a noncommittal reply. Morgan was feeling a little better. The car ride had provided her with a short rest. Morgan would need all the power she could muster. Confronting Maeve would not be an easy task; she had always been the strong one.
A loud thunking noise reverberated through the car as something struck the roof. There was another noise against the passenger side door, then the fender.
“What the Hell is that?” the driver asked, slowing the vehicle.
“Do not stop. If you value your life do not stop.”
“You threaten me? I been driving for twenty years! You think a hundred pounds of nothing, like you, is going to scare me? I got to see what that was. We better be close to where you’re going, cause you’re getting out real soon.”
“Shut up,” the driver, said. “You don’t like it you can call my boss and tell him I told you so. This car gets hurt and it comes out of my check.”
The car pulled to the side of the road. The emergency lights flashed, filling the night with a harsh red glow. Morgan watched him, knowing what was going to happen, but unable to tear her eyes away.
The driver made it two steps before his blood sprayed through the night air to splatter against the windshield of the car. His head rolled slowly down the rural highway, bouncing along like some kind of strange ball.
Morgan threw herself over the seat and jerked the car into gear. She steered awkwardly as he pulled her body into the driver’s seat. The engine roared as she mashed the gas pedal to the floor. A cloud of dirt flew high into the air, flung upward by the spinning tires.
A small shape smashed into the window next to Morgan. A spider web of cracks spread from the impact.
“Damn it!” Morgan yelled. She had hoped Maeve’s creatures would not find her. It was too much to ask.
Rocks pelted the car, a hailstorm of granite and limestone. Long, slender blades thrust their way through the roof of the car. Morgan saw long furry tails and black feathered wings flash through the beam of the headlights as she sped forward.
Flying monkeys.
With swords.
Morgan shook her head wanting to laugh out loud, but she was worried that her laughter might have a hysterical edge. Maeve had never had an original thought in all her long years of life, but that did not make the creatures in less deadly.
The car shimmed from side to side as it sped faster. The airborne simians had not been breed for swiftness. They fell behind, becoming small dots of brown in her rearview mirror.
A giant man-shaped figure stood in the middle of the road. Morgan could not stop the black sedan before it barreled into the shape, spinning out of control. Morgan’s head smashed into the cracked driver’s side window. Shards of broken glass showered outward. Blood ran down her temple and the world went black.
 Morgan’s eyes fluttered back open to the loud sound of crushing metal. A massive ten-foot tall man with the head of a bull smashed his fist into the hood of the car, denting the metal like a sledgehammer.
The monster smashed its fist into the hood again. Morgan gathered her thoughts, concentrating. She needed to act fast before the dumb beast realized it was her and not the car that hurt it.
Green light enveloped the beast. Frost formed along its arms and legs, growing thicker and thicker until the creature was encased in a solid block of ice.
Morgan stepped from the car and glanced around. The small stream and surrounding hills looked familiar. The last time she was here, over a century ago, there had been a small village. She was not far from the House. It was not by happenstance that the city had grown miles away. They couldn’t have that many people so close.
Memories of her life here came back to Morgan. She always tried to forget the places she lived, and the people she once knew. Remembering made it hard to move on. She had friends in the village, and even for a brief while, a husband.
Morgan fought off the urge to sink into memory. She glanced around noticing the faint red light that could barely be seen. Maeve was growing more subtle in her golden years, in years past she would have never set the magical trap. She had always preferred sheet blunt force to the more delicate forms of attack. Morgan would have to be careful.
She reached into her duffle bag and pulled out a long belt wrapping it around her midsection. The artifact would protect her from certain spells. A small revolver went into the waistband of her jeans. The final item was a long cane made of oak. Runes of power were carved deep into the aged wood.
She crept through the forest all her senses aware of the world around her. If Maeve cast a spell of memory then the next attack could be almost anything. But no attack came, instead Morgan spotted the tell tale glow of fire light.
The orange-red light of a gigantic bonfire loomed before her as she left the woods. Morgan could see the House silhouetted by the fire. Her former home had been ravaged by time. The roof had collapsed. The walls leaned inward, ready to follow the roof. Jagged, splintered wood stuck out from the ruins like teeth. Morgan slithered up next to the house, hiding in the shadows.
“Morgan, you might as well come out. Madelyn is already here,” Maeve said, her voice sounding like crackling leaves.
Morgan stepped from the shadows. Madelyn was hanging from her wrists in a nearby tree. Her head rested limp against her chest, her face drawn and haggard. Her chest still rose and fell, but the amount of blood that ran from her gaping wounds told Morgan she did not have long left to live.
“How sweet to have my dear sisters return to bask in my greatest glory. Have you two finally made up your differences?” Maeve asked. Her hair was white, her form hunched and fragile. Deep wrinkles marred her face.
“Time has not been kind to you, sister,” Morgan said. It was a petty insult, but anything Morgan could do to throw Maeve off would be a help.
“I’m not as vain as you and had better uses for my power.”
“Like ending the world? I know opening the rift will grant you eternal life, but at what cost? Your mad plans are why we left! Do you really want to spend eternity on an empty dead planet?” Morgan knew the answer but she needed to hear her sister say it.
“Yes!” Maeve screamed.
Bright red light flooded the clearing as Maeve used her magic. Fire surged forward, racing toward Morgan. Morgan held her staff in front of her. The fire struck Morgan’s thick green shield of protective magic, knocking her back a few feet.
“You were always the weakest of us. If Madelyn could not withstand my power, what chance do you think you have?”
Morgan fell to her knees; her only reply was a muffled grunt. Maeve was right. There was no way she could overpower her elder sister with magic. She struggled forward and nearly fell on her face. Maeve’s magic hammered at her shield.
“We knew you would do it, that someday you would be able to open the rift. We waited and planned how to stop you. But it has been for nothing...please sister…do not kill me,” Morgan said, forcing her voice to sound broken and defeated.
“Perhaps, I will let you live, just long enough to see me triumphant. It might be nice to have a serving wench to bring me wine as I watch the world burn.”
Morgan crawled closer. She dropped her cane, pulled out the revolver, and jumped to her feet. Six shots echoed through the night air. With each shot Morgan took a step forward.
Maeve laughed. “Did you think your insignificant weapon would actually harm me?”
“No,” Morgan yelled, sprinting the last few feet to her sister. Her shoulder slammed into Maeve’s midsection, a loud gasp escaping the ancient woman’s mouth as Morgan knocked the wind out of her.
Morgan crawled up Maeve’s unmoving body, her hands latched onto her sister’s throat. She squeezed as hard as she could and slammed Maeve’s gray-haired head into the ground.
Maeve’s fingers clawed at her arms. Morgan could see the light of desperation in her eyes. Magic required concentration. The panic that filled Maeve’s eyes spelled her doom.
Dark bruises formed on the flesh beneath Morgan’s fingers as Maeve’s struggles weakened. Morgan whimpered as she watched the light fade from her sister’s eyes. She didn’t let go until long after Maeve stopped moving.
Sobs wracked her body as she stumbled to Madelyn’s hanging form. A small magical green flamed flared, burning through the ropes that held her sister.
“Morgan?” Madelyn called out in a weak voice.
“It’ll be okay, Maddy. Everything’s going to be okay.”