Halloween Flash Fiction Blog Event with Dina Given
We’re starting our 2nd annual Halloween Flash Fiction Blog Event off with some fantastic stories. This story comes from Dina Given, and was inspired by two different images. Check out the images, the story, and the giveaway she’s offering below!
The Crow Prince
By Dina M. Given
Caw, caw, caw, caw
“Shut the hell up,” Amy screamed into the gnarled trees protecting the miserable creature from view. The last of the autumn leaves had fallen to the ground creating a crunchy, brown carpet beneath her feet, but she could barely hear her own footsteps above the cries of the crow.
She tried to shake off the feeling the animal had been following her. She took this same path along the lake every day on her way home from school. It was usually a beautiful, tranquil journey, but this dim afternoon the crow brought with it a sense of foreboding.
Caw, caw, caw.
Shivers raced down Amy’s arms and she pulled her coat more closely around her, dipping her head against a sudden frigid gust. The lake to her right was a dull, gray reflection of the sky but there wasn’t a ripple on its surface, which struck her as odd, given the wind swirling so violently around her. Leaves and twigs slapped at her, her long hair blocking her vision.
Caw, caw, caw.
The crow’s call sounded louder and more urgent to her ears. What did the bird want from her? It’s screams reverberated in her head and burrowed into her brain, shifting and morphing until the sound became the whisper of a familiar word…Run.
Dread flooded Amy’s body, as if something unseen, but sensed at some deep, primal level, was coming closer.
This time Amy obeyed the crow and took off through the trees, knowing she was only minutes from emerging onto her street. However, the thing that was following her was faster.
Something hard and painful clamped around both of her shoulders, digging into the soft skin of her chest and underarms. Then the ground fell away beneath her so fast that she didn’t have time to scream. Then she was soaring high above the tree line and knew no one would hear her anyway.
Reaching up, Amy’s hands clawed frantically at the thing holding her. It felt like stone – hard, cold and rough – but she clutched to it for dear life, terrified it would release her. Taking a steadying breath, she lifted her eyes and beheld the creature.
Despite its massive size and stony exterior, the beast was able to take flight on a pair of leathery wings that spanned at least twenty feet. Its face was blunt, with a flat nose and high brow ridge. Long tusk-like canines protruded from a mouth full of razor sharp teeth. It met Amy’s eyes with a cold, baleful glare and growled a threat deep in its chest.
Amy began to shiver violently. There was no possible way for her to survive this creature. Whatever it wanted, she knew with utter certainty it would end in her death. Maybe it would be better to struggle against its hold and plunge to the ground below. That had to be better than being torn limb from limb.
Caw, caw, caw, came a war cry from above. The crow she thought had been tormenting her, but was trying to save her life, came into view. It was a formidable bird, larger than any she had ever seen, but it was still dwarfed by the giant stone gargoyle. The crow didn’t seem to realize it was fighting out of its weight class, and swooped down with talons extended aiming for the gargoyle’s vulnerable eyes.
The beast jerked away from the attack, plummeting into a downward barrel roll. Ground and sky spun past Amy’s vision over and over, and her stomach lurched into her throat. Just as she was about to lose her lunch, their flight leveled out, but only for a moment.
The crow swooped in, this time aiming for the thin membrane of the gargoyle’s wings. The gargoyle pumped its wings, trying to prevent the crow from getting close, and pulled Amy higher and higher. Amy struggled to breath in the thinning atmosphere, her body starving for oxygen as the air temperature plummeted. Darkness crowded the edges of her vision.
Then the gargoyle released a wail so deep and pained that the sheer sound of it pulled Amy back from the abyss. The crow had torn through the creature’s right wing. Blood sprayed into the air and some of the hot droplets splattered Amy’s face. The damaged wing couldn’t hold the air currents and the gargoyle fell into an uncontrolled dive, spinning and tumbling through the atmosphere.
Blood continued to pump from its injured wing, spreading out behind them in a red curtain. Amy realized the crow must have torn through a major artery. The creature was furiously pumping its healthy wing, but it wasn’t enough to keep that massive stone body aloft.
Clouds rushed past and the ground came into view once more. The cold, gray lake and skeletal arms of the bare forest grew larger. Amy sucked in oxygen and released it with a blood-curling scream. She didn’t care if no one heard it; she screamed for herself as an outlet for the terror coiled deep in her gut.
The talons that had been holding Amy so securely began to loosen their grip as the beast weakened. She knew she was going to fall either way, but it didn’t stop her from instinctively gripping the gargoyle’s feet, trying to maintain a handhold. She tightened her grip just as the creature released her.
Amy hung suspended over the treetops using every drop of strength she had in her to hold on. Air rushed passed in a deafening roar and the world spun wildly as the beast struggled to fly with only one wing. The ground came toward her with a speed that held the promise of death, or at least significant injury.
The treetops fell past her and their gnarled arms reached out tearing her coat and scratching her hands and face. She could hear branches breaking as the gargoyle crashed through the dry boughs.
Caw, caw, caw, called the crow keeping pace beside her. Let go, Amy heard in her head. For some odd reason, she didn’t question the order and released her hold on the gargoyle’s talon.
The sickening feeling of free falling swallowed her whole, but it was short-lived. She hit the ground hard, buckling her legs beneath her and curling into a roll until her momentum slowed then stopped.
Amy marveled that she was still alive. Every muscle, bone and inch of skin screamed in protest as she tried to move. Nothing seemed to be broken, but she didn’t have the strength to do much more than roll onto her back.
A heavy crash sounded only a few feet to her right. Turning her head, she saw the injured gargoyle sprawled nearby. It quickly righted itself, still looking perfectly capable of killed her in one swift blow, regardless of its injured wing.
It started toward her, its gaze filled with pain and anger, snarling and baring its stone teeth. It took a step closer, then another. Amy knew she should get up and run, but she couldn’t find the strength. Then a streak of black feathers crossed her vision and the crow landed between her and the gargoyle. However, it was no longer a crow.
The bird had smoothly transformed into a young man when he touched the ground. A blush crept across Amy’s cheeks as she became aware of his lack of clothing. He landed in a crouch, his back to her, reaching under the layers of dead leaves at his feet searching for something. Finding it, he rose to his full, formidable height, lean muscle flexing and bunching as he prepared to fight, a sword gripped in his right hand.
Without hesitation, and giving the gargoyle no time to anticipate the move, the man ran straight at the beast, sword held high. With a great leap, and the gracefulness of a bird, he avoided snapping jaws and brought the sword down on the creature’s neck.
He didn’t remove the head, but the blow was enough to sever the beast’s spinal column. It staggered and fell, losing control of its limbs. Then with a choking, gurgling sound, blood trickling from its mouth, and the gargoyle died.
The man didn’t watch the gargoyle’s final fall. Instead, he was already running toward Amy. Kneeling at her side, he dropped the sword to the ground and held his hands over her as if wanting to touch her. “Are you injured?” he asked urgently, with a hint of an accent Amy couldn’t place.
“No, I don’t think so. Just tired,” she said, struggling to focus on his handsome face as the world became hazy around her. His jet black hair fell across his eyes as he leaned closer. He was saying something, but a ringing had begun in Amy’s ears and she couldn’t hear him. “What?” she said.
“We need to get you out of here. More will be coming now that this one has failed. They will be looking for you.” He moved his hands under her shoulders and with gentle strength, helped her into a sitting position.
“What are you talking about?” she said, unable to process anything he was saying.
“You are in no condition for a long conversation at the moment, but I promise I will explain everything later. For now, if you wish to survive the night, you must come with me. I swear that I will protect you from them, or die trying.” He reached out an open hand toward her.
She met his sky blue eyes and the sincerity and determination she saw there left no room for argument. She placed her hand in his, relishing the warmth of him against her ice cold skin, and allowed him to pull her to her feet.
To start our giveaways this week, Dina is offering a signed copy of either Unhidden & Unraveled (from her Gatekeeper Chronicles) and a $10 Amazon gift card to one lucky reader! Crows and gargoyles are common items to decorate with during the Halloween season. To enter to win this giveaway, comment below with some of your favorite holiday decorations. We’d love to hear what you thought of Dina’s story, as well! 🙂 (And… remember, if you’d like to meet and hang out a bit with Dina, she’ll be one of fantastic Featured Authors at the 2016 Coastal Magic Convention!)
All giveaways this week last from their posting date, through November 1st. Winners will be chosen and notified by email on Monday, November 2nd. All giveaways will be fulfilled by the author. You can find the kickoff post for this year’s Halloween Flash Fiction Blog Event HERE, for a listing of all of this week’s participating authors, many including giveaways. Good Luck, everyone!!