Another section of a work in progress, which I will not be posting wholly here, sorry.
The next morning, they all gathered on the porch as the sun was just coming up. Corvina was yawning and heavy-eyed. She might have slept longer, had she not been curled up on the floor in the living area. Holly had apologetically indicated a stack of pads and blankets, saying she had never bothered with hauling a couch to the cabin. Amaya had already sacked out in one of the two bedrooms, while Holly pushed Corvina through training exercises, insisting she could sleep in the car the next day.
Now, though, Corvina blinked at the dawn and accepted the hot mug of a steaming liquid that was gently pushed into her hands. It didn’t matter what it was. She sipped at it, and discovered it was rich chocolate, nearly bitter.
“Not hot chocolate.” Holly answered her unspoken question. “That’s drinking chocolate, a beast of a much different shape than the kid’s drink.”
“Mmm.” Corvina put her nose back in the mug rather than try to make a sensible comment.
“I couldn’t do this often, but it hits the spot.” Amaya stood at the edge of the weathered wood boards. “Thank you for your help, and lost sleep, Holly.”
Tru bounded up the steps, long pink tongue hanging out, and flopped at their feet. Corvina bent to pat her.
“My pleasure.” Holly’s voice had a ring of verity to it. “I am always delighted to meet a strong young woman.”
“Me?” Corvina blurted as she realized they were talking about her. She straightened up.
“Yes, you.” Amaya smiled and shook her head. Her hair, normally pulled back into a sleek bun, swung in a tousled wave around her face. “You have a lot of power bottled up in you, and I’d just as soon you know how to channel it.”
“She’ll do.” Holly yawned as she said that, a jaw-cracking motion they all heard. “Sorry, I’m not as young as I once was.”
“Thank you.” Corvina told her, “I didn’t know I could use some of those spells offensively.”
“You can do most anything offensively,” Holly crouched and patted Tru, who rolled over and offered her belly for scritches. “It’s not about the magic, the power, it’s about the mental place. The well armed woman isn’t about a weapon. Rather, knowing how to make anything into a weapon.”
“Anything?” Corvina looked around dubiously.
“That mug in your hand,” Amaya gestured with her own mug, fortunately empty now. “It’s got some heft to it. When it’s full of hot liquid, that’s also a component. If nothing else, catch them by surprise and you’ll have bought yourself an instant to figure out something else in.”
“Which is usually, run,” Holly stood up again, grimacing. “Put some space in between you and your enemy. Do that first, then figure out how to fight if you need to.”
On the porch roof, a crow squawked loudly, and they all looked up.
“Something makes me think that’s agreement.” Amaya chuckled. “Now, though, we need to hit the road.”
“Food, first.” Holly said, waving off Amaya’s protest. “There are no restaurants for an hour, at least. Can’t recall exactly. Staying on the backroads may be wise, but then again, it has drawbacks.”
Several hours later, as Corvina handed Amaya one of the sandwiches Holly had pushed on them, they were realizing just how much interstate travel had changed the face of the map. Their map, unlike the live GPS, Amaya explained to the naïve Corvina, didn’t have all the details like where hotels were, or eateries, and on the backroads, those had closed in favor of the ones right off the exits where the traffic was.
“We see a hotel, I’m stopping.” Amaya looked in her mirror at the colorful sky and sinking sun. “I did not plan for sleeping in the car.”
“We have blankets, though?” Corvina glanced over her shoulder at the gear in the backseat.
“In case of emergencies.” Amaya sighed. “Like a breakdown in the middle of nowhere. Not simply no place to stay.”
“That’s kind of an emergency.” Corvina looked around at the countryside they were rolling through. “I’m not even sure where we’d stop.”
“Oh, that’s not hard. One of these access roads. They are going nowhere, other than grazing land, so very lightly used. We could get safely out of the way for the night. It’ll get cold, and we don’t have camping gear, so sleeping in the car. Won’t be comfortable.”
“It’s ok.” Corvina shrugged. “It’s an adventure?”
“Adventures are best happening far away and to someone else.” Amaya gave her passenger a lopsided smirk.
“I’ve never had an adventure.” Corvina swallowed against the tightness in her throat. “Sorry, that sounded lame.”
“No, you haven’t.” Amaya turned on the headlights. “You’ve been trapped in a cage with your wings clipped for your whole life. Now, you still have to grow the flight feathers back out, but then? You’ll be able to soar on your own.”
“That’s… I don’t know.” Corvina settled against her side of the car, her forehead against the cool glass. “I don’t know if I can live alone.”
“No one does until they try it. I’m not trying to be trite, here. Cliches exist for a reason, they’re true. But it’s also really easy for me to say it, and hard for you to figure out the action steps…”
Something stepped out onto the road ahead of them, and Amaya stomped on the brakes, hard, as her headlights touched it. She came to a halt only feet from the antelope, which regarded them with huge, calm eyes, while it chewed it’s cud. Amaya gasped for breath.
“Amaya…” Corvina was looking out the side window. “Something’s happening.”
There was a flurry of movement in the fringes of their headlights, coming from the embankment to their right. Then dozens of creatures of all sizes were flowing onto the road, before and behind them.
“What’s happening?” Corvina asked.
“I don’t know. It’s too early in the season for a fire.”
The road in front of them cracked suddenly, and there was a rumble.
“Amaya!” Corvina clutched the door handle.
“Stay put” Amaya threw the car into reverse, suddenly grateful for the rental’s back-up camera. A grid pattern flashed over the safe path, once, twice… then disappeared as she threw it into reverse. “Dammit!”
She could still see the road dimly on the screen, and didn’t see a sucking void where the land had slid away, like it had in front of them. She pressed on the gas and heard the tires chirp as they flew backwards.
I was prompted this week by Fiona Grey with “The grid pattern showing the safe path flashed once, twice, and then vanished.”
I prompted Becky Jones with “The old camera from the flea market had a roll of film inside. Once developed, the images…”
You really should go read all the prompt responses, there’s some goodies! That’s the fun of More Odds Than Ends, we’ve got super talented people. You can join us, too, check it out!