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The Cave by Alanna J. Rubin

For Stephan M. – a continuation…

The stillness that permeates the deep dark misleads you.

The deep voice that uttered the warning faded away as if carried off by the wind, leaving Lyra with a single question…What did he mean? She tucked her long red hair behind her ear and continued along the path even though the journey through the mountains had borne no answers, yet it was where the same voice had directed her. Lyra thought back to her village and the emptiness that greeted her upon her return from K’Daan, the kingdom of healers. She had completed her training and was eager to rejoin her family and offer her services, but when she arrived, there was no one. The village seemed to be devoid of all life. No laughter, no barking from the numerous dogs, no birds chirping, even the leaves of the trees no longer rustled. All that was left were the remnants of activity, the embers of cooking fires were warm, steam spiraled up from soup bowls, the smell of freshly cut herbs still hung in the air. It was as if everyone and everything disappeared in the blink of an eye, and an uneasy feeling crept over Lyra’s skin.

With nowhere else to go, Lyra remained in the village, in her family’s home. Her room was how she had left it, a small bed tucked in the corner under the window, her mortar and pestle sitting on the shelves on the far wall, and her brother’s framed landscape stood on the window sill. The only difference was the soothing flames that burned brightly in the fire place…her family had prepared for her arrival. The thoughtfulness created a feeling of warmth, which was quickly overtaken by one of worry and confusion at their disappearance. Lyra had passed an uneasy night and had woken to the same disembodied voice urging her to venture west to the mountains, and it had promised answers.

It must have been another mile before she found herself at the mouth of a cave. Ravens flew above, which only accentuated the darkness that seemed to spill out its entrance. Every logical thought urged her to turn around, but all her other senses told her this was the way forward. Lyra approached the cave with caution and examined the rocks and shrubs that guarded it. Among the shrubs, she found a substantial branch that she could use to fashion a torch. She pulled strips of cloth for bandages, from the satchel that rested against her side, wrapped them around it, then set them alight. Lyra took one last look around. All seemed normal, except for the disconcerting cawing of the black birds above.

There was no way around it though, so with a deep breath to steel her for whatever she might encounter within, she stepped inside. The fear and trepidation that were her companions moments before disappeared and a sense of calm took their place. Lyra felt a peace take root, one that begged her to remain engulfed in the soothing blackness of the cave. She felt a strong urge to lay down and sleep. A far-off voice seemed to be singing a soothing lullaby, each note making her limbs feel heavier. As she found herself succumbing, she heard a familiar voice warn, “The stillness that permeates the deep dark misleads you.” It snapped her to attention and the far-off voice that, moments ago, seemed to be singing a lullaby, turned into blood curdling screams. The burst of adrenaline broke the spell of the cave and Lyra found herself running forward. “Hang on,” she yelled out into the blackness. Her voice reverberating against the walls.

“Help me!” the man’s voice called back frantically.

A few feet more and Lyra found herself at the edge of a pool of water and a man tied to the wall, the water level just below his mouth. She scrambled to the man, her feet slipping on the damp rock. She pulled a knife from her satchel and cut him loose from his bonds that were made of vines and helped pull him up to safety. “Thank you,” he coughed, water having passed his lips right before she had finished cutting him loose. By the light of the torch, she could see his soulful brown eyes and a lock of his thick black hair fell into his face. “You saved my life,” he continued still regaining his breath, then asked, “What’s your name?”

“I’m Lyra,” she answered.

“Jorin,” he replied.

 

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First SMFS Book is released!!!

Hello All!!!

I am excited to announce the release of the first of the Stories My Friends Started anthologies.

This is a collection of 5 stories, started by you, our friends, from each of the amazing Ink Slingers.

Please download, read, enjoy and review!!!

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Even in Death by Alanna J. Rubin

For Sean

The lead lined coffin rolled through the streets with thousands of onlookers staring in reserved silence.

Not that Anholt could see them. The lead blocked the sensors from detecting him, but it also interfered with his ability to see through objects. He could, however, feel the waves of sorrow emanating from the crowd. If only they knew who was actually in here, he thought to himself. Some might think his tactics distasteful, but honestly, this was the only way.  He’d been barred from entering the palace and his face plastered on wanted posters across the kingdom. When Anholt had heard that the revered royal advisor to the king had passed, he shed a tear for his good friend then thanked him for this opportunity.

Anholt took great pains to switch the coffins and buried his friend’s remains on his family’s land overlooking the peaceful golden valley. A far better suited resting place than the opulent one his station demanded. Gareth, always disliked the idea of his remains being interred in the royal catacombs beneath the palace. At least I spared him that, he spoke aloud. Jostling roused Anholt from his melancholy, snapping his attention to the task at hand. He could tell from the movement that the coffin was being placed on the altar in the Great Hall in preparation for the viewing. This was his chance. His heart raced as he waited for the emotions of the pall bearers to grow faint. He’d only have a small window of being alone now that they had left.

Awkwardly he pressed his hands and knees against the lid, but it didn’t budge. “Not funny”, he uttered through clenched teeth as he strained against the lid which seemed to have sealed shut. His arms and legs collapsed as he relaxed, his breathing labored. Mentally he geared himself up for another round when he felt someone approach. Whoever it was, was nervous. Anholt laid quietly, not wanting to alert whoever it was to his presence and silently wished for he or she to go away, but they didn’t. Instead he felt the coffin shake and heard a groan as the lid was pulled up. He prepared himself to attack when he saw the person’s face, “Darcie?” He squawked in surprise. “What are you doing here?”

“What does it look like,” she said in an annoyed whisper, “I’m rescuing you.” Anholt felt a smirk tug at the corner of his mouth.

“Well, that’s a coincidence, because I’m here to rescue you.”

“Fine job you’re doing to. Gareth warned me I’d have to look after you. Was the first step in your brilliant plan to get yourself trapped in my brother’s coffin?”

Anholt wouldn’t admit she had a point. “We don’t have time to argue details. I’m here now, so let’s go.” He tried to nimbly leap from the coffin, but his legs were tired from the strain of his failed attempts of opening it, so his foot caught on the edge causing him to trip. Darcie grabbed him under the arm and saved him from falling to the ground. Can this get any more embarrassing? He silently asked, sure that Gareth would have found the situation uproariously funny. But Anholt’s train of thought was interrupted as he found himself entangled in Darcie’s embrace and staring into her hazel eyes, the same hazel eyes as Gareth. He had held her brother’s gaze not long before his death, when he pledged a solemn oath demanded by Gareth who knew his life on this plane was fast coming to an end. Anholt faithfully promised that he’d take his sister away before the king could marry her. She was chosen to be his bride by royal lottery, but Gareth knew her heart belonged to someone else. Anholt’s pulsed raced as Darcie flashed him a nervous smile and he realized that he was that man. Even more surprising was the flood of emotion their closeness unlocked. He took Darcie’s hand, reveling in her touch, and together they ran toward freedom. As they fled the palace and the kingdom, Anholt chuckled at the wisdom of his friend. “Thank you,” Anholt whispered hoping his words would reach Gareth’s spirit. Even in death, Gareth knew him better than he knew himself.

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Beacon by Alanna J. Rubin

For Kendra: Fall never ceases to be an inspiration.

As I walked down the street, I felt it for the first time this year, the air changing from the warm southern summer nights to a cool breeze… ah the magic of fall is here.

The beautiful night begged me to linger even though I was already late in meeting my friends for our scheduled guy’s night, but I didn’t care. They could wait, but the night, however, was fleeting. Overhead, a cloud moved revealing the large bright full moon whose light shone down upon me. The energy it bestowed was invigorating. It felt as if I were being charged up and I walked with an extra zing in my step. It wasn’t until a few minutes later that my left arm started to tingle. I ignored it at first, thinking nothing of it, but the sensation grew to the point where I stopped dead in my tracks and pulled up the sleeve of my brown leather jacket. My pale skin shimmered under the light of the moon. It was beautiful, mesmerizing, and frightening as I watched the shimmer spread up my arm. I quickly changed direction as home was no longer an option. Instead, I made my way to the mayor’s, who also happened to be the leader of our coven and my sister. She would know what to do.

Breathless from running, I waited impatiently on the white porch for her to open the door. When she did, it was clear that Gillian, with her short red hair and excited green eyes, wasn’t surprised to see me. “Xavier,” she said warmly, “come in.”  She led me through the halls of her spacious home. The walls were a calming shade of blue accented by white wooden trim and oak wood floors. As I followed her deeper into her house, the tingling sensation of my arm began to lessen. Clearly, her home was far from the ordinary appearance it projected. After a few minutes of walking through the various rooms and down the stairs to the basement, I found myself in the middle of our entire coven, which also happened to be about a quarter of the small town of Fairwood. The familiar faces all smiled when they saw me arrive. Gillian must have seen the confused look on my face, because she gestured to them and said, “We’ve been expecting you. It’s time.” If that was my sister’s attempt at an explanation, then I was more confused than ever.

They didn’t waste another moment and began casting, the ceiling soon disappeared revealing the night sky. My skin once more began to tingle. Gillian helped me off with my jacket, leaving me feeling vulnerable in my short sleeved white shirt and led me toward the center of the circle the coven had formed. My brain told me to resist, but my body was drawn forward. I stood alone as my sister joined the others facing outward holding hands. The light of the moon seemed intensified with the chanting and it shined directly down on me. My skin responded and the shimmering grew to encompass my entire body. The energy burst forth from my finger tips and shot up into the sky like a beacon. Then it was over as suddenly as it began. The chanting ceased and the ceiling reappeared, where the night sky was a moment before. Fatigue set into my bones and I fell to my knees. Gillian came to my aid and gently brushed a lock of brown hair that had fallen into my face back behind my ear, like our mother use to. “You did very well, Xavier,” she complemented as she led me to the couch to sit down. The rest of the coven dispersed, excited chatter filling the house. They all nodded at me in appreciation as they walked by, but left me alone to recover.

“I don’t understand,” I replied. “I’ve never heard about this or read about it in our coven’s history. What was that?”

Gillian smiled, “It’s the prophecy.”

“A prophecy about what?” I asked still confused.

“All you need to know is that they’re coming.” Gillian smiled broadly and patted my arm. “I’ll get you some warm apple cider.” She got up as if that answered everything, but when I looked down at my arm, it was still shimmering and I could feel remnants of the energy coursing through my blood. Each pulse felt like a warning, a prompt to move into action. With an inexplicable certainty, I knew that I needed to learn about this prophecy and stop it from coming to pass if it wasn’t already too late.

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