We challenged you to write 500 words or less of flash fiction in the world of Dai and Julia with the prize to the winner of an ecopy of The First Dai and Julia Omnibus. The judge was not either of the authors but a beta reader of the series. So, with no more ado here in winning order:
1. DYING TO BE DEAD – Joyce Hertzoff
The body wasn’t cold yet when Dai Llewellyn arrived on the scene. He extracted his identipad from his tunic and photographed the body in situ. Brin arrived moments later, and Dai turned and nodded.
Brin squatted, placing three fingers on the deceased’s neck. “Definitely dead.”
“Obviously.” Dai sighed. “The fifth this fortnight.”
“Sixth. I’m afraid we have a serial killer on our hands here in Viriconium. And unlike The Ripper, this one is killing wealthy patrician woman here to explore.”
“But not Britons.”
Brin shook his head.
Julia came around the corner, her boots making more noise than a woman of her short stature should. “Another one?”
The two men nodded.
“Who would want them dead?”
Dai studied her. “You think someone’s hired an assassin to kill them all?”
“It’s possible. I’ve heard of husbands hiring cut-throats to kill their wives when they tire of them.”
“You think the husbands of these women wanted to end their lives?” Brin’s eyes and mouth were wide.
Julia pursed her lips momentarily. “Let me ask amongst my Roman friends, listen to gossip.”
“Why you?” Brin’s brow furrowed.
“I have connections you don’t.” She smiled. “They’ll tell me things they’d never tell you.”
In less than a week she had the results of her investigation. “You won’t believe this,” she told Dai. “A man has offered to kill anyone tired of this life.”
“You mean, the women asked him to kill them?”
“That’s exactly what I mean.” She shivered.
“Who is this man? Do you have a name?” Dai asked.
“That’s the biggest surprise of all.” She paused to increase the dramatic effect. “He’s a vigiles named Dru Evans.”
Dai gasped. “A vigiles? You’re sure?”
She nodded. “So, what do you suggest we do?”
“We need evidence. We should catch him in the act.”
She grinned. “And I know how.”
“What? No! You’re not going to approach him.”
“Who else?” She smirked. “Relax, Dai, Edbert is never far away from me.”
“Just don’t get yourself abducted. Again.”
“I don’t intend to.” She patted his cheek, then left, Edbert trailing behind.
Her sources told her Evans was assigned to the east end of Viriconium. Not the best part of the city. Dressed in the least-patrician stola she owned, she walked the main street and a few side streets until she saw the vigiles. “Are you Dru Evans?” she asked.
He looked her over and smiled. “I am. Why do you ask?”
“I’ve been told your just the man to help me.” She sniffed. “You see, my physician told me I’m dying a slow and painful death. I…I want to end it now.”
“Domina, I believe you’ve mistaken me for someone else.”
“No, I’m sure you’re the man I seek.”
He smiled. “It will cost you.”
“I expect to pay. How much?”
He told her the amount, and she promised to return within the hour with the money. What she didn’t say was she’d be accompanied by the Submagistratus.
Joyce Hertzoff retired in 2008 after 45 years in the scientific information business and turned from fact-based literature to fantasy - but it's still tinged sometimes with science. She has short stories published in anthologies, Book 1 and 2 of The Crystal Odyssey Series: The Crimson Orb and Under Two Moons and A Bite of the Apple: Portal Adventures Book 1. Joyce lives in New Mexico with her husband. The window wall at the back of her house has a wonderful view of the foothills of the Sandia Mountains.
2. DYING FOR A FIX – Ian Bristow
Deep below the bustling streets of Londinium, a dark room flashed with the blue light of a blinking computer monitor.
“Dominus, We’ve got an incoming message from Atticus.”
Licking opiate residue off his fingers, a broad man limped forward. “Put him though.”
Attticus’ anxious face appeared on the screen. “I don’t like sending reports while I’m still at work.”
“I think you’ll find I care very little what you do and don’t like. If you want to see her again, you will do as you’re told, Atticus. Who got you that job as secretarius?”
His brow wrought with worry, Atticus nodded several times and glanced around again. “Alright, Hook-Beak has helped Julia again. His guys have done some research for her, but I didn’t hear anything about the opium trade into Rome. Sounded like children were involved.”
“Children? Could be a code word… After the hit my operations took in the caves, I cannot afford another bout of such carelessness. I never should have let the moron Pulcher off his leash. The blunder has cost me months of planning and more than one of my best connections. And what’s more, those bastards Llewellyn and Cartivel are switched on to the fact that we use non-motor vehicles for transport. They’ll swoop in to check on any similar-looking caravans from now on.”
“Perhaps that could be used to your advantage … Dominus…” Atticus trailed off. At least the idiot knew how to read an expression.
“Speak out of turn again, and I stop feeding her. She means the world to you and nothing to me. You would do well to remember the position you’re in, Atticus.”
“I meant no disrespect, Dominus.”
“You think me a fool? If you are willing to betray those you care about for me, you will certainly betray me for them. I don’t need your opinions or suggestions. I made it explicitly clear what I want from you.”
He turned away from the monitor and told the man at the computer to end the message. “I think dear Atticus’ usefulness has run its course. See that he is killed on his way home from work tonight.”
Shooting pain coursed up his leg as he started for his office, causing him to grimace. He pulled a metal container out of his coat pocket and reached in for a tar-like black ball, relishing the pain relief this latest batch of opium granted him as he stuck the ball in his cheek and sucked on it like a sweet.
After taking a moment to savor his reprieve, he ambled to his office and sat at his desk. Before his conversation with Atticus, he had been unsure how to rebuild his operations, but the idea of using what Dia and Bryn thought they knew to his advantage was a truly inspired one. And with Atticus silenced, there would be nobody to leak the information.
3. DAI AND JULIA AT THE GAMES – Bryan Pentelow
It was a steep climb to the top of the ridge and the view into the Vale of Usk, but at least it would be downhill from here to the fort at Caerleon. Dai let the horses have a breather before they had to brace the weight of the cart on the way down. Julia jumped of the cart and walked back and forth to ease the imprint of the rough plank which formed the seat of the cart. It had made a deep impression on her posterior over the last hours as, with Dai leading the horses they had laboured up the track.
“Need a massage love?” he grinned at her as she rubbed the tenderness away.
“Not from your rough paws.” she retorted.
“Come girl, up you get or we’ll not make the fort before the sun dips and I would rather be inside the lines than out with the locals in these parts.”
Julia climbed back onto the cart and folded a sack on the seat in the hope of a little comfort.
It was a relief when the legionary stepped through the gate and challenged them. Dai’s quick reply and salute assured them entry and directions to the inn for their nights lodging. Over their evening meal of roast Welsh lamb they discussed the following days sport at the arena. Caerleon had a good name for the quality of its games.
It had been Julia’s idea to take in the games at the fort on the way to visit some of Dai’s relations along the coast and a day at the arena had appealed.
When the sun climbed over the hills they were up checking on the horses. After a light breakfast of porridge with dates and some bread and cheese they walked across from the garrison to the amphitheatre to watch the fighters practice. There were a dozen men exercising and sparing with wooden or blunted weapons and the couple watched from the tiers of seats to assess the skills and strength of the contestants. Julia was impressed by a huge Nubian with a trident and net but Dai said he was too slow and pointed to an olive skinned Thracian with a small round shield and gladius whose lightning reactions were a pleasure to watch.
The first match of the games was the Nubian against Gaul with an axe. It was a slow contest which the Gaul won by slipping under the net and cutting the Nubians tendons with a single strike. They had to wait till the final bout for the Thracian, matched against a Germanic brute with shield and mace. The mace bearer should smash the smaller man but speed and skill began to wear down the giant. The Thracian seemed to stumble and the mace came down towards his helmet. At the last second he dodged and ran up the Germans shield to bury his sword between the giant’s shoulders. Dai collected his bet and Julia was impressed with the winnings.
Many thanks to all who entered and we hope everyone enjoyed reading these as much as we did! Jane Jago & E.M. Swift-Hook