Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Flash Fic: City of Curses: The Apa

Here is some Flash Fic set in #Crux, City of Curses.  Its a city built around a massive skull- at the center of the world, a port of call for trade, intrigue, wonders and horrors.  A dark fantasy setting set in a early industrial "Jacksonian" era.

Finn is a Ursyklon boy who is trying to get away from bullies, but has wandered into the Grove of Mage-Trees- can he keep away from the human children who like to tease him, or will Finn find other, wilder things?


The ApaI shivered from where I hid.  They couldn't find me here.  Arza and Gill never followed me this far into the Wolf Quarter before.

Why?

"Fin!"  Their voices echoed among the trees around me.  This part of the city was thick with trees.

"Half-Fiiin!"  Unlike Gill or Arza, I could hide here.  They were human.  Even though they were younger than me, both of them still towered over me.  I am Ursyklon, and that meant I was half their size.  I was always half their size.

Humans always towered over Ursyklons, gigantic by comparison.  Even my father was the size of a human child.  Two years younger, yet too huge for me to stop.

I tried to stop my quaking body.  Fear just seized me.  I kept my muscles tight.  I didn't blink.  I had to be able to see.

The day before Gill had given up pelting me with rocks once I got to the trees at the edge of the Wolf Quarter.  The day before that, Arza had left me with welts from her "games."

They always picked on me.  Always.  Even when I had told them over and over to leave me alone... they kept using that word.

"Halfin."  Arza called out.  She bent over like she were calling for a dog.

"We shouldn't be in here, Arza."  Gill stood behind her.  He tried to grab Arza's shoulder.  "Let him go... he has to go back to school at some point..."

Arza shoved the tubby boy aside.  "All the other Halflings go to Wolf's School, he's the only one we got to play with.  You don't want to miss out on him crying, Gill!"

Gill bit his lower lip.  "Arza-"

Arza then giggled.  "Half-Fin!"

Her voice echoed through the trees.  I shivered again.  Two years older, and here I trembled.  Wolf-damned because my parents refused to let me transfer to Wolf's School on the other side of the neighborhood.  I crawled up the tree.

I stopped when I saw the hand.  A wooden hand, outstretched from the tree.  Like it belonged to someone screaming for help.

"Half-Fin!  Come on out, Halfin!"  Arza's tone took on a fake gentle tone.  "We won't bite you.  I promise to use a softer collar this time!"

I looked up at the woman's face that looked part of the tree.  Tears flooded down her bark skin.  A Mage Tree.  In horror, I let go of the tree.

The fall, that didn't hurt too much.  But Arza and Gill found me instantly.  I glanced up to see Arza looking down at me, the stupid collar in her left hand.  She smirked like she'd found a lost pet.

"Drek."  I muttered.

"Halfin!"  Arza bent down to me.

That's when Gill stumbled back.  He tried to grab Arza.  Arza ignored him.  She grabbed me with one of her meaty hands.  Then she heard the wolf's growl.

Her eyes went wide.  She looked right into the wolf's eyes.  Both amber pupils glittered with a greenish glow.  The fanged snout then opened.

The Wolf spoke with a old woman's words.

"Get out of my woods, or you get to join the rest of them."

Gill and Arza moved back.  The two of them started to cry.  They must've seen the trees.  Every tree, suddenly, also had the body of a human.  Humans long ago frozen into bark and twigs.

"I've never seen them run so fast."  I couldn't take my eyes away as they bolted.

"Stupid little apa."  The wolf's voice sounded old, familiar and warm.  I couldn't place it right away.

It sounded like a thousand years and wilderness, held together with campfire and wolf's fur.  Powerful.  She had to be, to be able to speak while in animal shape.

"Um..." I didn't know what to say.

"You thought I only was talking to the little apa, weren't you?"  The Wolf said wryly.  "Do you have a name little one?"

I froze a second, before I realized she was joking.  She had switched to the old tongue, Ursyklo.  I followed her words.  After comprehending them, I answered.

"I... I'm Fin.  Finlay Crowtongue.  Er... Finlay Materson Crowtongue... ma'am."

"Fin."  The druid in Wolf form chewed the word over, like she was trying it out.  "Well Fin.  You enjoy being the prey of some upstart apa younger than you?"

I looked down at my feet.  "I... tell them to stop... and well..."

When I looked up again, the wolf had been replaced by an older Ursyklon.  Runes covered her face's skin.  Her eyes glowed with green.  Naked.  She was naked too.

"Archdruid."  I bowed my head.  "I... I didn't-"

"Fin."  The archdruid grabbed my hand.  She stood a full head taller than me, her body muscular, more muscular than I would've thought.  "We have always had to deal with the apa.  They call us names.  They once thought they could cage us like pets."

She put my hand onto the mage-tree I had tried to climb.  I felt tears wash over it.  I could see the crying woman's face above me.  Then I saw it, still buried inside bark and wood.  A crown.

My eyes widened as the Archdruid continued to speak.

"She still thinks she isn't a tree, you know.  We never asked her to stop.  When others act like monsters, you remove them.  Words are nothing, Fin Crowtongue.

"Even the Empress of the Tomasi couldn't stop actions.  Do you understand me?"

I nodded as I looked up at the crying face of the last Empress that had ruled the Tomasi humans.  A tree.  Forever a tree.

"They can't stop actions."  I thought aloud.  "I think I do understand, Archdruid."

"Good."  Then the leader of my people took me home.

If you enjoyed this, please feel free to let me know in a comment below!  If you didn't like it or have a suggestion for improving it, you're welcome to comment too.  All in all, thanks for reading!