Skull Stories

The Errand

     by Stacy Assaf

The air seemed to mold itself to her breath, leaving no trace of her presence.  Her control was effortless – blending into the surroundings as if she were merely a wind gently blowing by.

The statues in the cloister stared at her wordlessly as she crept toward the temple.  She wondered briefly if they approved.  Did they know what this place had become?
Would they be on her side or his?

As she moved from shadow to shadow, faded light filtered through the ancient leaded glass from
the inside of the temple to the ground below.
Ivies and shrubs grew up to meet it, wrapping around it and partially
covering the window.  She continued to creep along until she reached the servant’s entrance.  She had done her research well… paid the right informants, observed for long nights, making no moves, making no sound.  Only the orphaned slaves came here, to clean the incense and dust from the temple’s altar and walls.  The irony of a mistreated orphan cleaning the
surface which was used to offer a sacrifice in order to ask for favors and
mercy was not lost on her, but she had to stay focused.

They didn’t expect anyone to choose such a lowly entrance for infiltration, making it perfect for
her purposes, and after months of planning she was almost there.

The light seemed to shift across the narrow courtyard to her right. Before the sentry could even
raise his arm, the feathers of her shaft quivered slightly and her arrow found
purchase in his skull.  She had been
careless – and all was almost lost.  How
ashamed she would be if she had failed her errand! She paused to collect
herself, pacing her breathing  until her
heart stopped fluttering.  One.  Two. Three.
Now she was ready.

She slipped through the entrance, leaving the gardens behind.  The smell of the incense was stronger here, and she wondered if it was the last thing that her brother had smelled.  Suddenly the smell was nauseating.

The Backhall was dimly lit, the heavy curtain separating  the altar area from the less attractive
functional area behind.  Urns and clay pots littered the walls and small tables were covered with incense, embroidered cloths and colorful vials of oils scattered according to ritualistic
importance.      Everything was clean and carefully placed; even in servitude her people had done their work well.  It showed a pride that the Unity did not understand,
and that would be their downfall one day.

As for today, if her errand were successful, they would be given a hint
as to their destiny. However if their arrogant inhumanity stayed its present
course, no amount of hints would preclude the civil war that was inevitable.

Only one thing mattered now, here, tonight.  Only one.
She steadied herself before pushing back the curtain and sliding silently into
the temple main room.

This was the one room that she had not been able to observe – the one thing that she had not
been able to carefully plan. There was some concern that she wouldn’t be able
to find it once inside –but she needn’t have worried.  The skul lof her brother sat on a pedestal,
surrounded by candles – the unwilling leader who became the unwilling sacrifice
made for her people by bloodthirsty oppressors.
She took it down, kissed his beautiful head and left, carrying what would
be the symbol of their rebellion close to her heart.

End

Until Death

     By Robert Kassebaum

 “Did you bring the sword?” the skull asked.

“Yes… I did,” Colinda said as she held back her tears. “As
you requested.”

“Please don’t be sad. It’s really for the best you know,”
replied the skull.

Colinda started to pace the anti-chamber in a slow, circular
pattern; her leather boots creaked as she stepped. She stared into the empty
eye sockets of the skull she held. It is all that was left of her friend, her
lover, her husband. “Please. Is there no spell that can bring you back to me?
Something else we have not tried.”

“No. It is the only way to free my trapped soul. My time
here, on this world, with you… is over,” the skull answered.

Colinda walked over to one of the windows and looked out. She
saw the sun was starting to set. The sword in her other hand began to weigh
heavily, and as the tip of the blade hit the floor, it rang out.  Tears streamed down her face.

“Now is the time, my love, before the sun sets. The magic
within the sword is at its strongest,” the skull said.

She went to the center of the room and placed the skull down.
Colinda grabbed the hilt of the sword with both hands and lifted it above her
head. “Do you like my outfit?” she said, trembling. “I  made it just for you. The material is almost
see through and, if I move ever so slightly, quite revealing. It’s like the one
I wore on our wedding night.”

“I remember,” the skull stated. “It’s beautiful, as are you.
But it is pure torment, for me, to see you dress so. I can no longer hold on
you, as in life, I have no hands, to caress you, and no lips, to kiss you
with.  So please, while there is still
time, I beg you, strike!”

Colinda swung down hard, missing the skull by inches. The
blade of the sword broke in two with a snap as it hit the floor. She let go of
the sword, and fell to her knees. Both hands went to her face. “I’m sorry. I…
c-can’t bring myself to let you go,” she sobbed. “You mean so much to me. As in
life, so as in death.”

The skull was silent.

She stood up, picking up the broken sword with one hand and
the skull with the other. Once more, Colinda looked deep into the empty eye
sockets. “Please, say something,” she said crying. “Anything.”

But the skull remained quiet – not saying a word.

End

 

The Lusty Skull

     by Ken St. Andre

“Take me with you!”

Vrionne stopped admiring the wavy-bladed sword that she had just taken from its place of honor above the altar of sacrifice, and looked around for the voice.  The temple chamber was still empty, and that was good, but then where did the voice come from?

“Over here.  Look up! It’s kind of a high niche.”

The voice came from her left.  She thought about making a break for it.   She had what she came for, and the voice was scaring her just a bit.  Thieves hate to be interrupted in the middle of an operation–even if the interruption was just a disembodied voice. Still, it didn’t sound hostile.  She looked to her left–nothing but wall over there.  And a niche high on the wall with a skull sitting on it.

“That’s right!  I’m the skull. Come take me down.”

The voice was oddly compelling.  Vrionne crossed the chamber, stood up on tip toes.  Her fingers could just barely touch the skull’s lower jaw bone.  She stretched for it, and then felt teeth  clamp firmly, but not painfully on her middle finger.  She almost screamed.  But, thieves have self control, or they don’t last long in the business.  Slowly she pulled her hand back, and the skull rattled along until it fell off the ledge.

But, it didn’t fall.  Attached firmly to her finger, it came down at the same speed as her hand.

She put the sword down on the altar–quietly.  Then with her free hand she disengaged the skull and held it up to look at it.  “How can this be?”

“In life I was a wizard.  In death, I remain one.”

Vrionne was spooked, but she tried not to show it.  Holding the sword in one hand, she held the skull in the other and gazed at him.

“Why would you want to go with me?”

“I like the way you dress.”  Vrionne glanced momentarily at her skimpy costume.  It was an outfit designed to call attention away from her face, and also to permit rapid movement.

“Thanks for the compliment!  But I came to steal the sword, not a talking skull.”  She started to set him down.

“But baby, I’m in lust with you,” groaned the skull. Vrionne though she heard the hint of a chuckle in its bone-dry voice.”  She had heard such comments before, and she didn’t put much faith in them.

“It would never work out,” she told him. “You are notably lacking in all of the requirements I look for in a lover.  You don’t even have a tongue!”

“Well, then, I am the Guardian of the Sword.  How can I guard it if you leave me behind?”

“The sword won’t need a guardian where I’m taking it.  No, you can stay her, Sir Skull.”  She set the bony head down on the altar.  Then she carefully tied the sword around her neck with a piece of cord she had brought, turned and started toward the knotted rope that dangled from a skylight thirty feet overhead.

“You’re making a terrible mistake,” said the skull.  “Last chance!  Take me with you.  I am so bored in this place.”

Vrionne grinned slightly.  Men!  They always tried to wheedle her when they didn’t get their way. She gripped the rope and leaped upwards, catching it with her other hand.

“Freeze!” said the skull, and there was no longer any friendliness in his voice.

Vrionne felt her muscles lock up.  She felt an icy chill in every part of her body.  The rope turned slightly with her weight on it, and she saw the skull lieing on the altar.  A baleful blue glare emnated from the empty eye-sockets.

“Please,” she could barely whisper.

“You had your chance, baby.  You should have taken me with you.”

Vrionne hung helplessly in magical paralysis.  She wanted to scream, but only the barest whisper would pass through her lips.  She felt her body going numb under the chill.  Her mind raced, trying to think of a way out of this predicament. She knew what they did to thieves here in the city of Stormgaard.  Only one thing occurred to her.

“I’ll take you with me,” she managed to gasp.

“But I could never trust you!  No, you will hang there until the guards arrive, and they are already on their way. You should have taken me when I offered. After all, I told you I was a wizard, and you never want to offend a wizard.”

Vrionne wished the damn skull would shut the hell up.

End

Looks like the skull gets the last laugh.

______________________________________________________________________

Comments on these stories would be most welcome.  If you read them, I’d especially like to know which story you liked the best.

–Atroll

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2 Comments

  1. Posted March 8, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Wow, I really liked all three stories. On the whole, I think this trio displayed an overall increase in quality over the last triple. Way to go flash-fictioners! I loved the twist at the end of the 2nd story with the swordswoman missing the skull and the skull being silent. The third story brought back memories of lich (from that OTHER game) encounters: “Don’t touch the skull!!!” (Usually touching a skull is a bad idea as Vrionne found out.) I also really liked how the first and third stories used the image as inspiration but then expanded on the picture, filling the room with other things that our imagination as readers placed there quite easily. But I also appreciate how the second story took the image literally, the tack I tried to take in my offering in round 1. A tough call for my favorite vote, but I cast my vote for The Errand.

  2. Foresha
    Posted March 10, 2011 at 11:05 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Great job to all the writers! I enjoyed all of the stories. I thought each writer seized on different aspects of the picture in order to create their narratives. My vote goes to “The Errand” for the overall atmosphere and tension in the story.

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