Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Thief in the Night

From Chuck Wendig as usual, the present tense flash fiction challenge. And as a bonus: it's in a world familiar to readers of his blog.

 It is a dark day, but it always was during this season of course. The thief had been waiting for days, his blade at the ready. He was getting impatient though. The solid ground under his feet was unnerving compared to shifting sands and a rolling deck. But his tribe leader was dieing and there was no way they could afford the herb any legitimate way. The tribe has fallen on hard times after all. And now they neeed Blackbloom, the flower that built and destroyed empires, and it was almost in reach.
The king's compound is huge, it's thick walls surround miles of territory. And somewhere in there, somewhere, the Blackbloom is in it's full splendor. Fed up Absolom abandons his hiding place, launching himself at full speed down a hill towards the wall. His feet are used to the sand ocean and his tread makes no sound even at a sprint. In a flash he is at the wall, fingers and bare toes finding tiny crevices in the steel and stone meshwork to propel himself upward. His impact makes a small noise but nothing a guard would notice. He pulls himself up and is over the wall and onto a broad flat path just between guard patrols. Unfortunately pressure plates in the floor are less easily avoided and the defenses are called. Alarms are sounding as automated measures come to bear.
The king does not believe in mercy for invaders. Gun turrets and spells crackle and spark to life, weaving a net of destruction closing on Absolom. But he is not some regular footpad to be destroyed so easily. He leaps through the tiniest of gaps to safety. More sensors give away his movement and even as he lands he has to run, eventually half falling over the far side of the wall as a bullet grazes his thigh. By luck he stumbles into a shadowed plant, out of range of the guns. But by now the guards are coming, a swarm of gun toting sword slinging fools yelling at the tops of their voices.
Abaslom holds his breath as he staunches the wound, wrapping a spare rag to slow the bleeding, at least for now. The wound is nasty, but he will live, he thinks. The guards are still coming and he needs to be elsewhere. As quickly as he can he scuttles to another shadow, hugging the wall as much as he can and grateful for the seasonal darkness. One guard seems to spot him and comes closer to investigate. The last thing they see is a sharp rune blade. They fall quickly under Absolom's assault, fists cracking ribs and knee caps even as his blade cut their throat and soft belly. They never even get a chance to call out.
He works his way in, and thanks his luck that he managed to end up near the gardens. The dark flower sits proudly in the center, behind another, shorter, wall. His leg is hurting him more now, and slowing him. It's invisible in the perpetual night but a solid blood trail does run along the ground. The bullet hole is worse than he thought, it hit an artery. Absolom will be dead inside of a day without proper treatment. Still he pushes forward, moving from shadow to shadow, hiding in bushes or clambering up small sheds whenever a patrol comes nearby.
Finally he is close. Through the gardens and up to the center, three flowers bloom in the night, giving off something like an eerie non light. They are shrouded in perfect darkness, but around them is a perfectly clear path that is very well lit. Floodlights make it as bright as day and guards stand every five feet. There is simply no way to get past them. To make it worse they aren't the usual goons with guns. These are the elite of the king's guard, wizards and techno nuts, sword masters. Absolom is also sure that snipers cover the entire area.
Normally he wouldn't worry. But time is running short before he passes out, and his father will rot if he isn't revived quickly. He circles twice, trying to find any weakness in the defenses and failing utterly. An assault could work, if they didn't just trample the plants. Luring them could work, if they weren't so rigid and numerous. There was only one chance, and Absolom takes it.
In a mad dash he runs headlong forward, still fast despite his pale complexion and wound. In moments they are on him, some working to restrain him, others trying to line up shots, trying to decide if the intruder is worth shooting their comrades. He wastes no time fighting them though, other than using hard strikes and swift jabs to keep hands off of him. One last push of effort and he is over the wall, in reach of the flowers. A shot rings out and he feels the bullet ripping through him. Absolom sees his lifeblood ooze over the ground as another chunk of lead hits his back. He stretches both hands forward and pulls, shoveling one of his
A moment later and the other guards come in to cart out the body. In the confusion no one notices two flowers are missing. By the time they do it will be to late. In three days Absolom will wake in a shallow river changed, now one of the immortal black blooded bloomed. The second flower clutched to his chest, hidden by the blood still flowing slowly, will save his father. 

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