Another flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig: The Crow of Nine-World. This one was the best, because I didn’t have to come up with a title. And I hate titles.
Pick from a list of titles and write something. While “The River’s Mask” was very tempting I went with The Crow of Nine-World.
A quick pause before we get to the main action. I’m considering starting a podcast to put the audio in. I’d love any feedback if people would like that option.
The Crow of Nine-World
A tall, blue-haired, female elf walked through the shop door. The shopkeeper preened his smooth black feathers on his shoulders with his beak and cawed at her. He picked up the nearest item and his cloth and started polishing it. He watched her.
12.6 seconds after she walked through the front door he lifted his hand. “Welcome to The Crow’s Nest miss.”
She turned sharply to him, bumping into a mannequin that displayed items at her level and for her class. The mannequin tipped and reappeared in the correct spot when she got out of the way. She walked toward him a bit awkwardly, her gait exaggerated and unnatural.
“Menu!” She shouted at him. “Quests? Shit, hey Suze what am I supposed to say?”
“Are you new around here miss?” Crow tilted his head, his voice lilted with laughter.
“Hi?” She finally managed to walk over to the counter he stood behind, only after stepping over one of the shorter displays of boots.
“Hello miss. Are you new around here?” He set down the bauble and picked up another identical one and started polishing it.
“Quests. Beginner quests. It’s not giving me any quests!” She reached out and grabbed Crow’s beak. “It’s really cool! I can totally feel it!” She squealed with delight. He stepped back and twisted out of her grip. He gave a quick caw and smoothed the feathers on his shoulder.
“Oh, wait, why shouldn’t I? I mean it’s not real. I could kill it and it’s not like it’s real.” The elf pulled out a wooden dagger from the folds of her robes. Her hand didn’t grasp it tightly and she dropped it.
He stooped and scooped up her dagger. “Would you like to sell this to me miss?” His voice was not gentle any longer. In his hand the wooden dagger glinted like polished gold.
“No, I don’t want to sell it! I need a quest so I can upgrade it and Suze said it was in here.” The elf grabbed for the dagger. Her hand moved fast and she brought it down right on the tip of the dagger. She screamed and swore.
Crow paused for a moment. “Would you like a healing potion miss?”
“How the fuck does this hurt? Like it really hurts!” She was grabbing her hand and wrapping her robes around it.
“You’ve injured yourself miss. Injuries often cause pain. I have healing potions. I also have a single, special, invincibility potion that will make you invulnerable to all pain for 3 seconds.” Crow watched the blood drip to the stone floor which seemed to absorb it.
“Stop laughing! It’s not funny, it really hurts. Sure, give me your best healing potion!”
“I would never laugh at your pain miss.” Crow squatted down and plucked a tiny red vial from the shelf under the counter.
“See, even the game is nicer to me than you are. Thank you, shopkeep.” She reached out to grab the vial but smacked her hand on the counter. She sucked in a quick breath and pulled her hand back to try again.
“That will be 824 pieces.” He held the vial tightly as her hand collided with his.
She looked over his left shoulder. “I only have 8 pieces.”
“Would you like to buy additional pieces?” Crow raised his other hand. A scroll unfurled next to him and all the tiny motions in the shop–the curtain in the wind, the rat under a table, his chest rising and falling–stopped.
“No, I don’t want to buy shit in your stupid game. Why did I agree to play this?” She waved her hand at Crow.
Nothing happened. She pushed on his arm with the scroll. His feathers were stiff and didn’t move. She frowned and stepped to the right a bit. She reached out and pushed her hand forward again and touched the scroll at the top. It rolled back up and vanished.
“Would you still like to purchase the healing potion miss?” Crow smiled at her and stepped slightly so he was in front of her again. The small motions in the room resumed.
“No. It doesn’t hurt anymore. Ok, back to why I came here. I need to start a quest to upgrade my dagger.” It had blood on it, she brandished it at him. He stepped back away from the edge of the counter and gave a loud caw.
“Have you tried over at the orphanage? They always have work for someone who is good with children.” His voice had a gentle tone and his head tilt seemed inquisitive.
“I just got back from trying to kill the rats for orphans. I don’t even know how to get a damn starter quest done.”
The shop froze. Just for a moment Crow’s eyes flickered and then he, too, froze.
The same tall, blue-haired, female elf walked through the shop front door. Moving smoothly, with an incredible grace and walked right up to Crow.
Crow had just picked up his bauble to start polishing it. The elf bowed deeply in front of him. Her face was contorted. She opened her mouth and laughter came out, she doubled over clutching her stomach laughing.
Crow set the shiny bauble down and preened, smoothing the feathers on his arm.
She straightened and regained her breath, then bowed again. “Excuse me, good sir Crow. It is a pleasure to be in your presence.”
“A pleasure to meet you as well miss.” Crow bowed in return and the feathers along his back gleamed in the flickering lights above them.
“Is there anything I could do for you?” Her face froze with a twist of a smile.
“In fact, miss, I was just about to call for someone to run this bundle over to the orphanage. If you would do it I might be able to help you improve your weapon. If that would interest you. Or perhaps a new set of robes?” He reached under the counter and pulled out a small bundle wrapped in twine.
She lifted the bundle easily and slipped it inside a fold in her robe where it vanished. She bowed again. “Thank you very much Crow. I will return soon. And that is how you get a goddamn starter quest!”
The shop froze. Crow’s eyes flickered for several moments, the feathers on his shoulder raised up and froze.