At Arrow’s Point

Jenna Eatough's 8th Anniversary Blog Post

Eight years ago today, just before midnight, I posted my first flash fiction story. A habit I have continued weekly every Wednesday since. It’s hard to believe eight years of flash fiction stories have passed. These stories have let me explore new universes, different voices, and concepts in larger worlds I am working on. I am glad they are part of my writing.

For the 5th anniversary of my blog, I decided to start posting special, extra-long stories to mark the occasion and Erieri was born. She’s back again this year with a new installment and I’ve made it easier to find all her chapters. To see previous entries, click the “Anniversary” link above.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these years of flash fiction (or for those just discovering my blog will enjoy them) as much as I have. On to a new year of stories!

Flat. Flat. Flat.

The planes extended in every direction about Erieri. The planes of time, unending and never changing. At least that is what those without attention thought. In truth they constantly changed.

Grasses grew, lengthened, wilted, and fell.

Flowers bloomed in a chaotic rhythm Erieri still struggled to understand.

Ruins dotted the plains whispering of worlds and paths she’d yet to explore.

Outcroppings appeared out of nowhere.

Erieri stopped abruptly and Hendat and Cormac swept past her before they realized she’d stopped. They glanced at each other, thankfully not arguing for the moment, before turning back to her. “Erieri?” Cormac asked.

“Have either of you seen anything like that before.” She pointed to the outcropping, twisting to keep her gaze on them.

The quick eye widening confirmed what she’d expected. They’d been giving her peace finally, but only for her ears. Their fight had continued silently, though in what form she didn’t want to guess, even as they’d trailed behind her ignoring everything else.

Erieri rolled her eyes and turned away. “So never.” Not an unsurprising answer. Not here. Time like the plane changed and waivered beneath site.

The air beyond the outcropping wavered, rippled, forming a pool of brilliant blue spirals. Onto the outcropping a woman clambered. She clutched a bow in her hand and had arrows strapped to her back. Beyond her presence here, where only the master and apprentice (and apparently other masters who’d trained her or she’d chosen), she seemed normal. Well put together, even.

Not the allurer Hendat and Cromac swore would return yet.

Erieri jerked her thumb toward the woman. “Please spare me any riddles. Have either of you seen her before.”

Cromac shook his head, his own brows drawn together as he watched her. Hendat scratched his chin, his answer unsurprisingly less direct, but Erieri was willing to bet he didn’t know her either.

Great. Another new mystery, and she’d left her walking stick at camp. Empty handed, Erieri turned away from the pair and started toward the woman. The outcropping wasn’t too high, and she gripped the stone pulling herself from the ground.

Once her head poked over the summit she folded her arms over the stone and glanced up at the woman. She’d notched an arrow and stood facing the ripples, string pulling back.

“Hello!” Erieri’s greeting sounded loud and chipper, and the woman jumped her shot flying wide. She turned to look at Erieri. “Would you mind giving me a hand up.” A bit forward of a move, seeing as the woman was obviously armed and Erieri was not, but she’d been told numerous times she had everything she needed. Today she had her cherriness.

The woman’s cheek pulled in as if she gnawed it. The bow lowered and her hand moved away from her arrows, but otherwise she didn’t move, still steps away from Erieri.

Erieri huffed and glanced over her shoulder. “Not a horrible height, but I’d still hate to fall.”

The woman’s nose wrinkled, but she nodded and moved toward Erieri, grasping her hand, and pulled her up onto the outcropping. Erieri clasped her forearm with a broad smile.

Erieri could best describe the woman’s expression as confused as she backed away from the edge with Erieri following her. Definitely too formed for the allurer. “Welcome to the plains.” She let a friendly smile bloom.

She pulled back slightly, but thankfully left the bow dangling idly at her side. That the woman was familiar, Erieri knew, but she couldn’t place her. Not another future or past acquaintance to deal with. The sound of climbing sounded behind her, and the woman glanced over Erieri’s shoulder.

“You caused this.” The woman spoke quietly, but Erieri heard the strength there. Her lack of need to boast. “You brought them here.” She pointed an accusing finger beyond Erieri.

Erieri turned, her body following her head like a puppy chasing her tail. At the edge of the outcropping Hendat and Cormac clambered up the stone. She turned back. “Technically they proceeded me.”

The woman rolled her eyes and pointed at the distortion. “Technically I don’t care. They’re causing that.”

Erieri turned toward the distortion, tilted her head, and placed a hand on her hip. Through the spirals she could almost see… someplace. The view reminded her something of peering through a clock, except it wasn’t any world under her care.

“Where’s that?” She turned back to the woman, and she was scowling at Erieri. “Should I say when?”

She jerked her arm and the bow sprung up and into a tighter grip. “Only a guardian would ask such a preposterous question. And you of all of them should know better.” She turned away from Erieri and pulled another arrow from her quiver, drawing and pointing it toward the spirals.

“Me of all…” Erieri stopped and shook her head. She could figure that statement out later. “So, what’ve I caused this time?”

The woman let the arrow loose and it flew, zooming through the air with a cutting buzz. The point struck the center of the spiral and halted, falling to the ground. An aggravated grunt stopped Erieri from complimenting her on the shot.

Taking a step back, Erieri raised her hands and widened her eyes. “I still don’t know what I’ve caused.”

The woman raised her free hand, reaching toward Erieri before yanking and rolling her fingers into a first. “Is this your first time meeting me?”

Erieri glanced between the bow and the woman and nodded quickly. “Not the first time for you?”

“No, though you cautioned me patience when we reached this point. But how could you? How could you be so foolish as to weaken the divide between our realms.” She gestured to the distortion again

“Oh, is that what that is?” Erieri turned back to the woman. “What is your realm?”

“The immutable.” Hendat could have been impressed by the vagueness of that answer. Speaking of which. She turned back to Hendat and Cormac. “Either of you have a suggestion.”

“Well,” Hendat rubbed the back of his neck.

Cormac shook his head. “We are guardians of our realms, not other realms. I’ve never seen this before.” He gestured toward the spirals. “Or heard of other realms.”

The ground rolled beneath their feet. Erieri stumbled and Hendat grabbed her arm, pulling her back from the edge of the outcropping. She looked back to the woman. “The divide is weakening?”

The woman nodded.

“And it’s only going to get worse.”

The woman nodded again. “Until it swallows both our times.”

Erieri swallowed. Great she’d only been on the job… what felt like no time, and she’d already almost gotten time swallowed twice.

The woman stood for a minute watching her. Erieri turned away and glowered at the distortion. If it had been a clock draining, she could have simply controlled the flow through her will, but this was something else. She opened her pack and rummaged through it. Discarding gages, lens, and other oddities she still hadn’t determined a use for.

The woman grunted and turned away. Raising her bow to fire at the thing again. The arrow bounced impressively but uselessly away again. “Why are you firing arrows at it.”

“Because we must collapse that anomaly while we can. Why aren’t you?”

Erieri glanced about and turned back to stare at the woman. “I seem to be short arrows. Weapons weren’t part of my supplies.”

“And yet, I know you’re an expert shot…” The woman cut off again looking from Erieri to the bow she held. “Or will be.” She thrust the weapon at Erieri, shoving it into her hand.

The wood was heavy as Erieri clutched it. When she glanced up the woman was already removing the quiver from her shoulders and thrust it at Erieri as well. “You’re mutable. Perhaps you need to affect this end, not me.”

Trying to juggle the items thrust at her, she glowered at the woman. She’d decide later what she felt about being called mutable. “Then perhaps you should be on the other side,” she snapped.

The woman looked at the distortion. “You’re right.” Turning she sprinted away from Erieri. “Be ready to fire when I’m through,” she hollered. She leapt from the edge of the outcropping into the portal and the air followed her, dragging Erieri forward. Cormac grabbed her arm pulling her close and backward.

The distortion sharpened as the woman struck it, pushing her way through to the other side. Through a hole at the center, she could make out the land beyond. Canyons spilling away and pointing toward a horizon Erieri could barely make out.

When the woman landed on an outcropping which matched the one Erieri stood on she turned back, the wind pushing her hair back behind her. Stretching out her arms, a bow and arrow appeared in her hands.

“Oh, forget it!” Erieri snatched an arrow out and dropped the quiver, the rest scattered about her. She fumbled with the bow, trying to watch the grace she saw from the woman on the other side, and equally trying to ignore the unsettling feeling of an arrow pointed directly toward her. At least she wasn’t firing into the wind.

Raising her bow, she mirrored the woman’s movements. Watching as she mouthed words, a count down and she was nearly at one. The woman’s head nodded abruptly as she reached the number and her arrow flew. Erieri’s twanged from her bow as the string snapped painfully against her arm.

She dropped the bow, clutching her arms and rubbing her skin furiously as she watched her arrow. It struck the anomaly as the same moment as the other arrow, and light blossomed from where the two points meet. The woman’s skill that. Erieri doubted she’d ever be able to make such a shot.

The wind halted. Not with a furious clatter she’d expect with averting the end of the world. It just stopped. When the light dissipated without even a meager thunderclap, she could see the hole filling and the woman grinning from her own realm.

They’d done it. Erieri smiled back and an irritating thought struck her. She stepped forward hollering toward the quickly receding spirals. “I didn’t catch your name.”

Through the thickening air Erieri caught her grin. “I didn’t give it!” The voice sounded rippled, and she barely caught the salute before the distortion closed.

Hendat placed a hand on her shoulder. She turned grinning, expecting congratulations for averting the world’s end again, and saw him looking at the ground. At the arrows strewn about Erieri’s feet. “Are you going to pick those up?”

Erieri stared angrily at the man. “I stopped time from collapsing and all you have to say is ‘are you going to pick those up’?”

“Saving time doesn’t excuse littering.” Hendat turned away, still staring at her with a smirk and started walking right off the edge of the outcropping. Laughing, Erieri stooped to retrieve the arrows.

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