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Flash Fiction: Fog and Illusions

I'm excited--it's finally starting to get warmer, and I finally managed to finish a piece for #FridayFlash before Saturday.  I've also gotten my focus together to be sending stories out to general markets again, which had mostly stalled since the new year.  Maybe it's the increased sunlight, or maybe it's because I found my bottle of Vitamin D pills, or maybe some planet finally left retrograde; whatever it is, I'm glad.  I have things to do!

But first, here's this week's story:


Fog and Illusions

There was always a hint of fog at the edges of her prison; it marked the fuzzy borders where the worlds met, a hint of cold or steam and half-realized shadows. But today it was almost as thick as the day she’d arrived, battered and exhausted, unwillingly shifted into the form of a human child. Her magic had been exhausted in the fight with her half-sister, then bound by the simple iron necklace she still wore, though now it was wrapped carefully in cloth to keep it from her skin.

Carefully, Lilyana walked to the old oak, sat on the wide plank swing, noting the sounds of the wind in the leaves, the not-quite-squeak where the thick rope rubbed against the wood of the seat. She started to swing, acting like the human-child she appeared to be. If her magic was intact, she could have called the fog herself, and wandered until she found a way home; with her magic bound, she had to wait for a visitor to provide an opportunity for escape.

She started to sing, the alphabet song, but with the letters mixed up. It was a tame bit of chaos, but it was disorder nonetheless, and even through the iron she could feel it building. Hopefully, her captors would think her mind was broken, if they visited. But her mind had never broken—she’d wrapped the necklace quickly, though she would bear scars on her neck and fingers forever. Since that time, she had moistened one link with her own tears, until it had finally started to turn rusty and tiny flakes of rust fell away to burn her chest or shoulder.

At first, she had used a lock of her own hair tied around the link to find it every day, but now she could feel it with her magic, weaker than the rest of the chain, weak enough to let a hint of her magic into the world, though the pain of pushing through it was exquisite.

Now her thoughts chanted: entropy, entropy, come to me, set me free! She wiggled her chubby human feet sideways, sending the swing into unpredictable motion, the eddies magnifying the potential for chaos all around her.

The mist thickened, and the ambient magic level rose, far higher than the trickle escaping from the single, rusty link in her chain could accomplish. Someone was coming. She pumped the swing higher and higher, singing letters out of order, her child-voice squeaking on the high notes.

Lilyana flashed back to that final battle, to her foes striking down her allies, bodies piling around her while illusions pushed in close, so half of her strikes, both of sword and of magic, were wasted. Finally one of the illusions proved to be real when a preposterous purple staff connected with her head.

She’d imagined so many modes of revenge, over the years—she was sure it was years, though every day was the same, sunny summer sunshine followed by clear summer night. Now the fog swirled in front of her, half-revealing the tall form of her half-sister, hair dyed to the same dark brown as Lilyana, striding toward her through the mists.

Desperately, Lilyana let go of the ropes, hooking them with her elbows and yanking at the iron necklace with all her strength.

The chain parted.

She flung it from her, feeling whole again, for the first time in—she didn’t know how long. She pulled lightnings to her hands, shot them toward her sister, the most lethal blow she could call without first resuming her own form.

Despite her erratic path on the swing, despite her pudgy weak child-hands, despite the magic-weak human form she wore, one bolt hit its target, and the woman in the mists cried out, a beautiful soprano voice so unlike her sister’s—and so like her own—that it broke her heart. If this wasn’t her sister—she shifted form and flew forward, into the mist, landing nimbly on her own feet, catching the falling form in her own long arms, pressing her hand to the wound to hold the green blood in, her mind shying away from the face, so like her own, but with her lover’s indigo eyes and long nose.

“Rosana!” How could this tall woman be her daughter? Her daughter had been a toddler when she was captured. How many years had she been trapped?

“Mother—I—we thought you a prisoner.”

“I was—I—“

Her daughter’s blood gushed out of her wound, and she desperately pulled in all the magic she’d loosed into her prison over the years, but she had never trained to use her magic for healing. She slapped a patch over the damage, roughly pushing tissues together into a more natural alignment.

Her daughter took one clear, labored breath, and then another. “That’s the worst healing job I’ve seen this century,” she gasped. “Let me.”

Lilyana balked. For her daughter to use her magic, she’d have to give her daughter control—not only of her magic, but of her whole self. But blood was still leaking out, soaking into the ground, and she didn’t know how to knit the flesh together. Soon it would be too late. She nodded, and opened her mind and soul to her daughter—

—and tried to recoil, too late, as her half-sister’s laughing presence filled her, binding her soul and magic with silken, gossamer chains—chains that did not burn, but which, forged of her own magic, she could never escape.

The dying illusion in her arms vanished, and her body stood, walking deeper into the mists to take the hand of her captor, who stood hidden there, watching. None of her anger or despair reached her voice, which said simply, serenely, “It is good to see you, sister.”

Her sister grinned, showing the pointy teeth of her own mother’s heritage. “It is good to have you, my sister, at last.”
_________________________________________

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Comments

( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
ankewehner
Apr. 8th, 2011 10:35 am (UTC)
This is decidedly creepy.
wyld_dandelyon
Apr. 8th, 2011 10:45 am (UTC)
Thank you!

(I'd worry if you found it uplifting.)
seekerval
Apr. 8th, 2011 11:56 am (UTC)
Well done twisty-sneaky stuff. I liked the child form's efforts to enhance her small available magic by the erratic swinging and inaccurate singing.

Have you met my older sister?
wyld_dandelyon
Apr. 8th, 2011 12:04 pm (UTC)
Thank you.

As to your sister, I don't know--if she goes to conventions, it's possible.
seekerval
Apr. 8th, 2011 03:52 pm (UTC)
No, Deirdre, she wouldn't go to conventions. (I once had to write a long letter to her explaining why D & D role playing was NOT the work of the devil. I'm not sure I convinced her and she'd definitely look askance at large gatherings of SF & F folk.)

The question was a poorly executed attempt to suggest that the sneaky-evil sister in your story reminded me of that particular sister of mine. Sigh. My written personal jokes have been falling flat lately. Maybe I'd best rein in that urge-to-quip for a while. : > }
wyld_dandelyon
Apr. 8th, 2011 08:18 pm (UTC)
Oh, dear, didn't mean to squelch your fun! Quip away.

When I was a kid, my brother taught me, all too well, an automatic reflex to react to quips in ways that, well, squelched his fun, seeing as how the fun from quips he shared with me was nearly always at my expense. Now, of course, as often as not, the reflex serves me poorly.
theothersideofdeanna.wordpress.com
Apr. 8th, 2011 02:04 pm (UTC)
Stupendous story!
Deirdre, I cannot believe, with all the magic floating around, that I didn't see that twist coming at all. Stupendous work, I love it!
wyld_dandelyon
Apr. 8th, 2011 08:29 pm (UTC)
Re: Stupendous story!
Thank you!

I'm glad you stopped by!
(Anonymous)
Apr. 8th, 2011 02:47 pm (UTC)
John Wiswell, http://johnwiswell.blogspot.com
Congratulations on finishing something before Saturday! I can tell you have an affection for this world through your descriptions and the central relationship.

“Mother—I—we thought you a prisoner.”

“I was—I—“

I'm not certain how to read these lines. I think they're supposed to be read as stammering. In the LJ setup, the dashes are very long, though copying and pasting them shortens them up.
wyld_dandelyon
Apr. 8th, 2011 08:27 pm (UTC)
Re: John Wiswell, http://johnwiswell.blogspot.com
It would be nice to have more control over things like font here.

Thanks for stopping by!
tigertoy
Apr. 8th, 2011 07:32 pm (UTC)
That's a lot of story in such a short piece. Raising chaos as a workable force by singing the alphabet song out of order and swinging erratically is a really cool idea. The betrayal surprised me as much as it did poor Lilyana. I'm left wanting to explore the story in more depth, in the hope that either there's another side to it, or that if it's as sad as it seems, this isn't actually the end.
wyld_dandelyon
Apr. 8th, 2011 08:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you.

At least there's some hope for another twist in her fate with this ending. :-D
Xeroverse
Apr. 10th, 2011 03:00 pm (UTC)
Really enjoyed this, love the subtle chaos of singing the alphabet out of order. I imagine it's a worse prison, to be forced into such helpless acquiescence, than the one she started out in...

I hope you don't mind a minor crit...
"The fog was thicker." is a fairly ordinary sentence to start such an extraordinary piece with. "There was always a hint of fog at the edges of her prison", is a much better opening line (imo), as it has hook and intrigue. People often underestimate how important that first line is. =)
wyld_dandelyon
Apr. 10th, 2011 05:31 pm (UTC)
Thank you. You're right!
aidanwrites.blogspot.com
Apr. 10th, 2011 04:28 pm (UTC)
The premises and world in your stories are delicious. I love the way she fought to break the chains; and then the way that illusions within illusions tricked her into the final failure.
wyld_dandelyon
Apr. 10th, 2011 05:27 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
(Anonymous)
Apr. 3rd, 2012 09:22 pm (UTC)
:)
Yes, I have to agree... creepy. But I really liked these characters :)
wyld_dandelyon
Apr. 4th, 2012 12:47 am (UTC)
Re: :)
Thank you!
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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