When Worlds Collide by Jen (an April Fool’s Extra)

*Go here and here to read the origins of this story*

Firefight

“Gemma, lift!” Grace’s voice cuts me from somewhere near sleep. I thank the stars for that, because the sea is heavy on my flight feathers, misting my face with cold and salt. She swoops down to catch me in her wake and drag me up, away from the surf.

“You scared me to death,” she says. I laugh, though it’s not funny. “Only half a mile to go, looks like.”

“Where are we going?” My voice falls to the sea like lead. Grace looks over her shoulder at me and drags the air with her wings, slowing to let me catch up. She doesn’t answer, just taps me with her primaries as she flies. The sun is an idea on the horizon, spitting pastel pink on the trees we fly for. Her feathers are ash and blue in the waning dark, and I want to curl up next to her and smolder forever.

We touch down on sand that leads to woods, hiding our wings from the unknown. A river narrows into the woods, bubbling like questions. We find a hollow near the river, and I’m asleep before she can kiss me goodnight.

Pounding wakes me, rhythmic and fast.

Hooves. I reach out, catching nothing but leaves. Panic swells hot in my chest.

“Grace?”

“I hear it,” she says above me, tree branches obscuring her. “Come up here.”

I reach her branch and let the leaves envelop me. The pounding shakes our trees, but slows.

“Centaurs,” I say. Her eyes are widen. “We’re in Omnia.” We traded the abuse of one land for another, for all the talk of Omnia is of the death in their mines and their king’s dirty dealings with other lands.

These men wear his crest. They’re formidable Percherons, all hulking muscle and dappled gray. A pair of them pull a cart while two more guard the flanks.

“Stop here,” one says. “I want to check her.”

“She was stupid to run,” another laughs. A steel centaur pulls a tarp off the cart, and my skin prickles. What I thought was cargo is one of their own, bound and gagged. Her midnight coat fades into a torso that’s more bruises than skin.”He won’t have her for a daughter. I hear the wolves want her as a pet and are willing to pay.”

“Maybe we could play with her first.” They laugh again, and I can’t see straight.

Grace’s nails dig into my arm as her wings spring from her back, rustling leaves. Her eyes scream injustice. I know that look on her face, I saw it through the bars of my own prison on Maderas. I let my wings fall from my back, and I’m proud of her. There’s good in the killer and firebringer our land made us out to be.

A twig snaps. A centaur girl below us is golden and fierce in the morning light. She trembles, eyes focused on the cart. Her body screams in a silent way and I know her, too. She is us.

I jump from my perch and land soft next to her.  Grace shadows me, hands telling and soft on my hips. The Halflinger girl doesn’t flinch, but takes us in with knowing glances.

“Is she yours?” I whisper.

She nods, fire in her eyes.

Sparks fly from my fingertips. “Let’s go get her.”

~*~*~*~*~
A/N: Happy April Fools! I hope you enjoyed our mash-ups. We were inspired by last month’s Craft Discussion: World Building.

 

 

 

 

“Winged Victory of Samothrace” Photo by Anne Marie Inspires Anne

Winged Victory of Samothrace by Anne MarieHouse of Hermes

It’s twenty minutes until race time. The racers are getting ready behind long purple and gold curtains. Sometimes I get a glimpse of an arm or leg and my pulse thumps through my veins. I’m praying to see Alexio before the gun fires. Mostly I see nervous girls. For the first time in decades, the Council is going to run fifty females as well as fifty males. All the races during my sixteen years, although the first five I can’t remember, have always been male only, ages eighteen and up. Overcrowding in the orphanages and work camps, plus a ten-year drought, threw us back centuries to arcane rules.

Only the top ten winners of each sex will survive to see tomorrow. They’ll follow the path from the Battle of Marathon to Athens. The first guy who did that died. Everyone who finishes 11-50 will be sacrificed to the gods for rain and grain. Not good odds then or now.

I bring my hand up to shield my eyes from the piercing summer sun. Golden paint shimmers on my fingers. Early this morning, before anyone had arrived at the staging area, Alexio let me paint wings across the skin of his anklebones. They stood out tiny and delicate against his tanned and lean legs. I painted larger versions across his shoulder blades. Anything to make him recognizable in the dust on the trail. Any excuse to touch him for possibly the last time. Alexio’s fast, but he’s never run that far in one go. He’s never been selected for the race by the House of Hermes.

Last night I laid out the cards and asked them if Alexio would win the race. They remained quiet. They did reveal that someone close to me would enjoy a great feat. No one else in my life means as much to me as he does. No one can make a fire burn inside my chest the moment he enters a room. continue reading…

“Winged Victory of Samothrace” Photo by Anne Marie Inspires Rebecca

Winged Victory of Samothrace by Anne Marie

We’re in art class and I’m supposed to be listening to Mr. Bolton’s speech about sculpture and the human form, but all I can do is look at Nikos and wonder about his form. I like to focus on different parts of him in our classes. Sometimes I’ll wonder at his jaw, or his beautiful dark eyes, or the play of his shoulder. Today, I’m just so in love with his hair. It’s a bit messy today, falling into his eyes fetchingly. I want to run my fingers through it, bring him close, kiss him and tell him I love him.

Half the girls in our year want to do this, though. Some actually get to touch him.

I’ve never been allowed.

I’ve tried, hard, to come up to scratch for him. I wear make-up now. My clothes are more flattering; I even dyed my hair red because I know it’s his favourite shade on a girl.

I put myself on this diet I read about in one of my mum’s magazines. It was the most soul-destroying experience of my life, if you must know. Fridays (pizza night in our house) became hell to me, sitting there with my broccoli while my family gorged themselves on stuffed-crust, deep fried whatever. But I did it. I lost 10lbs and I look amazing. In fact, I got a bit too skinny so I can allow myself a deep-stuffed-crust pizza thing every now and again. I look amazing, but not amazing enough for him. continue reading…

“The Winged Victory of Samothrace” Photo by Anne Marie Inspires Jen

Winged Victory of Samothrace by Anne Marie

Fly

The story of Icarus used to enthrall me.   The idea of building wings of feathers and wax and bits of wood, of stretching this creation, pulling upwards through the wind and flying filled me with longing.  I wanted wings.  But I wanted a better ending than Icarus.  I wanted to soar forever over the sea.

I couldn’t wait to be a Goldfinch, like my parents.  I couldn’t wait to fly.

That was before I knew the price of flight.  That was before I grew the tawny speckled wings of a Falcon and was condemned to this life.

Falcons are an abomination, they said.  Witchcraft, demon, firebringer, evil.  Those were my charges.  The words fell from my horrified parents lips and they brought me here, to Maderas’s Tribune, where they keep me locked away, poison me with potions meant to dampen my magic and run iron over my skin to stop me from creating fire.  They say they will learn from me, but in this world we throw away what we fear, and I have been thrown away.  I haven’t spread my wings in months and months.

“Gemma.” continue reading…