Today I wrote my 200 words from an upcoming WIP entitled In Death's Shadow, but these words are a continuation of an entry to another flash challenge put on by Cara Michaels, #WIPFlash. Cara's challenge had several prompts to work with and when I wrote these 495 for her, I used prompts
- "this just sucks"
- "no justification"
- an unusual winter
- the photo
The weather had worsened as the day wore on and Maia swore she’d never seen snow as deep or as constant as they’d experienced this winter. Great time to travel looking for someone. This just sucks. For all we know she could be buried out there under the drifts.
Maia had no idea where they’d gone after they’d left the forest and started to climbing. Her attention had been centered on the constant drag of her skirts through the snow and the bone-breaking chill. She only knew they’d arrived somewhere when she ran into Quinn’s snow-shrouded back.
“Oh, sorry.” Maia raised her gaze from the unrelenting white and gaped.
Gray veined walls of marble mirrored the Cliffside, so well camouflaged she could barely make out the outline of the door. Snow flurries disguised the odd scrollwork on the portal and an eerie feeling skittered down her back as Quinn grasped the hidden latch and yanked. Despite the air of abandonment, the door swung open on silent hinges.
He didn’t have to tell her twice. She trudged past him and he pulled the door shut, closing them in a deafening silence. Not even the scream of the wind cut the thick quiet. The air smelled stale and dry as if the door hadn’t been opened in unmeasured time.
“Where are we?”
Her voice echoed and Quinn struck a match, the hiss bouncing off the vaulted ceiling.
“It appears to be a sepulcher.”
Maia swallowed against bile as she took in the hideous construction before her. Skulls and limb bones of humans created a macabre chandelier and garlands around the ceiling. Four pillars topped by cherubs drew supplicants toward an altar in an alcove. A single angel stood upon a carved pedestal bearing a trumpet and a sword.
“Gods above, this place is creepy.”
“There’s no justification for that assessment.”
Maia swung toward Quinn with surprise. “What do you mean ‘no justification’?” She waved at the morbid décor. “Those are human skulls. They were people once.”
Quinn shrugged, his expression serene. “They’re dead. The soul has long fled and they’re nothing but bones. No vengeful spirits, no walking dead. Just old bones gathering dust. Quite peaceful, actually.”
He’s lost his mind.
He caught her look and raised his eyebrows. “Certainly better than being out in the howling wind.”
“I’m not convinced of that.” She glanced up at the bone chandelier. “Who do you think built this place and…that?”
“Have you done no research of this world, Princess?”
“I’ve been a lamp, remember?”
“And enlightenment didn’t come with it?”
Maia stared at him and he cracked one of his rare smiles. “You know, you should be careful. If you start making more jokes, you could be in danger of becoming friendly.”
“We wouldn’t want that.” Quinn lit a torch resting in a sconce on the wall.
Maia huffed a laugh. “Definitely not.” Then her levity died. “Ugh. Are those rib bones on the arch?”
For today's prompt, Sandra posted "struggling to take a deep breath."
Maia wrapped her arms tighter around her own ribs. “This place gives me the creeps.”
Quinn sighed. “This was the only place out of the wind and snow for shelter on the path you led us. So tell me, Princess, where are we going? Do you sense the Dryad queen here?”
Maia closed her eyes and opened her senses, struggling to take a deep breath without inhaling the scent of musty bones. The old sepulcher shimmered before her mind’s eye in an iridescent rainbow of colors. That’s odd. She’d never seen anything like it before in all the times she’d “looked” for the Dryad queen.
Turning slowly in a circle, Maia searched the glittering room and stumbled to a stop. She wanted to shield her inner eye from the searing glare of white light flooding through an arched doorway to her left and raised her hand to her closed eyes.
“Through there.” She waved vaguely in the direction of the archway, but hitched a breath as Quinn walked through her vision.
Instead of dirty white robes with bristling weapons slung around him, Quinn shone brilliant red and gold of power and courage. Sparkles of white and green flashed throughout his form, showing honor and…love? Surprise made her stumble again and “fell” out of her senses to stare after his fading silhouette.
My assassin is in love? She’d never thought the man could feel anything, though she’d seen flashes of humor.
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