Sometimes glitter happens. A Drift of Quills is here to bear witness with three different stories about the same sparkly picture. Strap yourself in, my friend, we’re going for a ride!
Today’s inspiration comes from this wonderful picture by Maria Eduarda Tavares:
Fiction Shots #9—Sometimes Glitter Happens
Flash #1: Dusted
By Robin Lythgoe
Darcy Channing heard the scratch of a fingernail on the door before she heard her name whispered. She opened one eye to look at the cellphone on the nightstand.
3:22 AM. Ugh. Nothing good ever happened at this time of the night. Morning. Whatever.
Her dream-come-true job as an apprentice to the wizard of Barbeck Castle had some amazing perks. Being on call in the wee hours wasn’t one of them.
“G’way,” she grumbled, burrowing deeper into the covers.
Oliver Harrowby was one of the perks—but the likelihood of Death By Oliver ran a stiff competition. The youngest son of the Duke of Barbeck, he, too, was a dream-come-true. Tall and lean with wavy auburn hair, aqua blue eyes, and a heart-stopping smile, he was also funny, inquisitive, and thoroughly unpretentious. He had a sliver of magical talent that his father discouraged, but his father was quite pretentious, and magic simply wasn’t done. There were people for that, just as there were people to cook, clean, fetch, and clean up the random supernatural muddle.
While she dreamed of walking in the garden with young Oliver, he sent his valet to request her to remove the strange glutinous stuff oozing from under the wall in the solar. Such was the perennial plight of lower classes misses throughout history. Developing a monumental crush on a scion of society was not a perk. Being called upon to clean up his never-ending experiments… well, that depended on the moment.
The whisper found her and hovered around her head. Oliver had mastered this particular talent and swatting at it was a waste of energy. With a noisy sigh, she threw off the covers and crammed her glasses on. Going to the door, she paused briefly to run her fingers through her own deadly dull black locks, knowing perfectly well that Oliver wouldn’t notice whether or not she looked tidy. If she shaved her head, he might study her with his fine brows drawn in puzzlement, then say, “Something’s different…”
Bracing herself, she opened the door.
“Oh, good, you’re awake,” he said without preamble.
“I am now.”
“I need your help.”
“Imagine that.” In the light from the hall, she took in his appearance: neat white shirt, tie, braces, and charcoal trousers. His only concession to the lateness of the hour were rolled-up sleeves. In direct contrast, she sported flannel pajama bottoms printed with galaxies and an oversized blue jumper with a hole in one elbow. While her room in one of the castle’s towers qualified as a perk, it came with a persistent draft. She tended to dress for it and dreamed of the day she mastered a spell to plug the leaks.
“There are, um, pixies on the loose.”
“Oh,” she groaned, any hope of a quick solution wafting away on a convenient draft. “How?”
“I might have inadvertently opened a passage.” He ducked his head, which was charming but did nothing to make the looming project any easier.
Darcy rubbed her brow and hit the push button light switch relic from the dark ages. Ah, the joys of living in a medieval castle. “I need shoes.”
“Certainly,” Oliver replied, and turned away to give her a moment of unnecessary privacy.
What else would she need? Candles were useless—and dangerous around mischievous, spiteful pixies. She rummaged through the apothecary cabinet for herbs and other weapons. “Where are they?”
“My rooms.” He had rooms. In the plural. Her tower room would fit inside his private drawing-room with space to spare. “The study. I blocked the crack under the door to keep them in.”
“Good thinking. Anything else?” Pockets full, she set off toward his quarters with a purposeful stride. His long legs made the pace look easy.
“I put out the candles.”
“You’re learning.” She couldn’t help a smile. The last time he’d accidentally loosed the wretched little pests, they’d set fire to the drapes in one of the downstairs parlors.
Oliver tapped his head with one finger and grimaced. Adorable.
“Did you close the passage?”
“I think so.”
“Someone help me,” she muttered as they raced through the halls.
Inside the drawing-room, they could make out tiny screeches and shouts of laughter peppered with more sizable thumps. It sounded like a miniature bar brawl in progress.
“Are they drunk?”
“Maybe?” Oliver shrugged. “There might have been a bottle of aftershave left open.”
“Yes. Apparently they’ll drink anything even slightly alcoholic.”
“That might be to our advantage.” She glanced around, then pointed to a small wooden chest. “Bring that. Empty.”
“Right-o.” He dumped the contents onto a nearby chair.
“When we go in, we will catch them and stuff them into the box.” She pushed up her sleeves and gave a sharp nod. “Fast.”
“I don’t think—”
Shoving the door open, Darcy froze in her tracks. Whatever she’d expected, it hadn’t been this. Scores of brightly colored pixies zipped around the room like frantic bees in a jar. They left a shambles of books, papers, discarded candles, and knickknacks strewn everywhere. Definitely not a perk. Some pixies wobbled in flight. Every time one crashed into something and knocked it over, the entire crowd cackled and guffawed.
“There’s more!” Oliver exclaimed. “A lot more!” He had the excellent sense to slam the door shut and push the rug back into the crack. Immediately, he began grabbing pixies and shoving them in the box. “Darcy!”
Galvanized by the shout, she swatted pixies from the air. When they tumbled awry, she snatched them up and put them in the box. Five minutes later, it seemed there were still as many loose as when they’d started—maybe more. It was impossible to keep them inside the chest. Every time they opened the lid, a few escaped. “This isn’t working.”
“Really? What gave it away? Ow!” Pixies were not beyond biting. “Maybe we should hit them harder,” Oliver growled, sucking at a wound on the back of his hand. Two of the pests landed on his head to pull viciously at his hair.
“Bad plan. If you kill any, you’ll start a feud.” While he dealt with his attackers, Darcy plucked a wire-ringed monocle out of her pocket and held it to her eye. Ignoring the chaos, she peered about in search of the doorway through which they had come. “There!” she exclaimed.
“But I closed it!”
Clearly, he hadn’t. She traded the glass for a little ball of dried leaves and a short yellow rod with a chain looped through a hole in one end. Slipping the chain around her wrist, she held it straight up over her head. Immediately, the pixies swarmed her. She bent her head and squeezed her eyes shut, forcing herself to focus despite the tugs on hair and clothes as they fought to take the gold from her.
“Is that supposed to happen?” Oliver asked, trying to knock them away.
“Mmmngh!” she managed.
Thieving pixies found her pockets. No matter. The energy she strove to collect crackled around the rod, scattering them by the dozen. Now she could concentrate, and the energy built up enough for her to weave a spell. With the sphere of leaves pressed against her lips, she whispered words of magic around it. Oliver kept swatting at pesky pixies, for all the good it did.
With a surge of energy, Darcy hurled the ball into the passage.
The pixies dove after it, their shrieks joining in a crescendo that ought to have made ears bleed. Oliver’s howl of protest was loud in a room suddenly silent.
“Are—are they gone?”
Cautious, Darcy approached the erstwhile hole the pests had used. She held the monocle up and had just enough time to suck in a startled breath before the space burped with enough force to knock her down. A chorus of cackles came from the banished pixies, and a cloud of thick sapphire blue pixie dust laced liberally with glitter covered Darcy and set her to sneezing. She sat up with a growl of temper and heaved a bolt of energy at the contrary passage. It disappeared with a sucking sound and a puff of blue.
“Now are they gone?” Oliver whispered.
“Yes.” Darcy collapsed and blew out a sigh.
“Excellent!” He scrabbled to her side on hands and knees, grinning from ear to ear and nearly as dust-coated as she. “You are brilliant!”
She wanted to tell him his smile was more brilliant, but that would be awkward. “Thanks.”
To her astonishment, he pressed his blue lips against hers briefly, sweetly. “You’re always brilliant,” he murmured.
“Maybe, but you’re still brilliant. Why do you think I keep finding ways to be rescued?” The waggle of his brows made her heart do crazy things.
“Yes.” He kissed her again. “I adore you, Darcy Channing.”
A smile of delight lit her sparkling features. She rather adored him, too.
Definitely a perk…
Flash #2: Fairy Chaser
Author of The Unseen Chronicles
Short stories, fantastic tales, spun from a single picture. It’s flash fiction month! Our picture was chosen by the lovely Robin Lythgoe, and I’ve been thinking of a single storyline ever since. This may very well be the shortest short I’ve ever written…
Flash #3: The Contest
Author of the Oathtaker Series
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Want to read more short-short fiction we’ve written? This link will take you there.
Sometimes glitter happens, right? We try to roll with the, er, gleam. This is such a fun way to write a story. I hope you enjoyed reading our flash as much as we enjoyed writing it! This has become a fun regular feature. If you’ve got a title or a picture to inspire us, let us know in the comments below!