It’s here, folks! The first Flash Fiction Friday. Fridays are meant for winding down, goofing off, and getting ready for the weekend. That’s why I picked Friday’s to put out some new fiction for you to enjoy. The perfect start to your weekend.
Today’s piece is entitled Valentine and involves a brand new character by the same name. The timing of this piece is a few months after the Black Earth series. The Dark War is over, the Earth is tattered and torn, and settlements are starting to pop up in different areas around the globe. One particular settlement has been erected out of the ruins of a city many fans of my Black Earth series will be familiar with – Providence.
So, without further ado, I proudly present the very first Flash Fiction Fridays piece….
Her feet hurt from the thousand mile hike from Serentina to the dark valley that stood between her and the city on the other side. Or rather, what used to be a city. Providence – once a sanctuary for those wanting to flee the Dark Army – had been reduced to rubble once Evanescence and her forces of evil marched through the city months earlier. Valentine wished she could have been here to help defend against the witch, but Fate had given her another destiny to fulfill. One just as satisfactory. One involving killing – and lots of it.
Valentine pulled her crimson cloak tight in front of her, making a mental note to tailor a bigger sized cloak once she was finished with her business here. The cloak she wore now seemed to be shrinking, and soon her skin would be left exposed to the cold.
With a final push of determination, she began her short trek through the valley. Her night vision – a gift bestowed upon her by the Sec – allowed her to maneuver around the dead bodies strewn across what was once a battlefield. Now it stood only as a graveyard to mark humanities darkest season. The stench of blood and entrails rose into her nostrils and she breathed it in as if it were enhanced oxygen meant to nourish her lungs, lending a metallic taste to the back of her throat, soothing her somewhat enraged mind.
When she reached what were once the tall gates of Providence – now a heap of stone and ash – she took a moment to observe the scattered candlelight, kept alight within small glass canisters that hung from different points throughout the city to give it its soft, orange glow. The scent of burning wood tickled the back of her throat, replacing the metallic blood fever, and she remembered campfires with friends before the Sec took hold of her, before she became who she was today – an assassin slave.
The sound of footsteps came at her from the right, but she did not flinch, nor did she pull out her ancient Scion blades to attack the individuals responsible. Instead, she held her head down, underneath the hood of her cloak, and folded her hands within each other. The less anyone could see of her, the better. She glanced down at her worn, brown boots and wondered if she could find a new pair of shoes in this place. It would require money or rummaging, neither of which she was willing to offer up. She would already have to expel her energy on crafting a new cloak from the special material she had acquired in the last place she had the chance to call home.
Four figures came out of the shadows, each holding a weapon: a chain link, a bat, a two-by-four, and a pistol. The fourth figure, the one with the pistol, was female. Valentine could deduce that from the individual’s simple hourglass shape, even though the woman could easily be mistaken for a man from the garb she wore. Each individual wore a patchwork of leather and metal pieces, giving them the appearance of bandits.
The man with the bat grunted, stopping a few feet in front of Valentine. “Look at this pretty specimen. I didn’t think cuties like you still existed.”
“Little Red Riding Hood!” the guy with the chain link squealed.
The third man and the woman both remained silent. Valentine decided to give them a chance to talk their friends out of doing anything stupid. Valentine wanted to fight, wanted to cast the blood of these four morons across the streets of Old Providence – as it had been called by some – but she would control herself if it meant she could complete her task and leave sooner rather than later.
“What brings you here?” the man with the bat asked.
Valentine said nothing. Her goal, the reason she was here in Old Providence, lay just up the street. She could sense the corpse.
The man with the bat stepped closer, cautiously attempting a peek under Valentine’s hood. “I asked you a question.”
Valentine moved her arms up, adjusting her sleeves, flashing the sun mark on her right hand, and then returned to her original position.
The man with the bat raised his weapon. “I asked you a question, Little Miss Red.”
The female with the gun grabbed his arm and pulled him back. “You don’t want to do that,” she whispered.
“Why the hell not? This is our city.” He turned to Valentine. “We don’t take kindly to trespassers.”
“Because,” the woman with the gun explained, “I’m pretty sure this is Valentine. The mark on her hand…the Sec owns her.”
The man’s eyes scanned Valentine, his teeth grinding loudly as he did it. “Impossible. The Sec died in the war.”
“She’s right,” the man with the two-by-four stated. “That cloak…see how it shimmers?”
The man with the bat took a closer look at the material that made up Valentine’s red cloak. “That doesn’t mean it’s blood. Could be silk.”
The man with the two-by-four nudged the man with the bat, moving him to the side. “Please,” he said to Valentine, “we don’t want any trouble. Get what you came here to get, and please be on your way.”
Valentine wasted no time in passing between the four individuals to continue into Old Providence.
“You’re going to let her in just like that?” the man with the bat grumbled. “She could be a thief.”
“We have nothing to steal,” the sensible man said. “Besides, I’m sure she’s Valentine. I recognize that cloak anywhere.”
“Soaked in the blood of her enemies,” the female added.
Valentine left them to their pointless discussion. Whether Valentine was a thief or not, she would have entered the city, either through peaceful means or by force. Bloody good force.
Walking down the street, Valentine looked up from beneath her hood at the rubble on both sides of her and attempted to match the layout with the pictures she had seen of what Providence looked like before the Dark War. She imagined the tall buildings, the beautiful lights, the little shops. She let her imagination run rampant, imagining horrific scenes of terror when Legion and the Dark Army entered the city. Chaos, Evanescence, Legion’s master entity. Nathan Pierce had fought them all. In the end, Evanescence took her army and ravaged the city. Then she went after those who had fled to the mountains, but by the time she reached them, everyone had found hiding places within the caves and forests. The witch wasted no time in setting the forests on fire, and sending her demon Hellhounds into the caves. Hundreds were slaughtered.
Valentine saw the massive black puddle of dragon’s blood shimmering across the concrete and then scanned the area for the corpse she was here to collect. Positioned on the sidewalk, encircled by clusters of various colored flowers and tea lights, a large mass of white sheets caught her attention. Valentine approached to examine the pile and found that the symbol of the Sec had been clumsily painted on the top sheet, telling her this was the body she was here to retrieve: the body of a hero. This was the body of a girl who had fought the dragon, Chaos. This was the body of a girl who had sacrificed her life for the one she loved, to give him a chance to battle the darkness, to give him a chance to escape.
Without ceremony, Valentine lifted the mass of sheets – all of which were wrapped tightly around the corpse – in her arms and began her long journey back to Serentina.