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Prompt 5 – Outsides

Here we go again.

The thought wasn't particularly kind, but it was true. The shouting, the smoke lingering on the air, the smells of burn and wet, the angry looks, his parents trying to field the complaints off with promises of repair or payment... And his sister standing in the middle of it all, head bowed, fists clenched and her face wet with tears of mixed fury and despair as people pointed accusingly at her and hurled insults.

“Out of control!”

“Dangerous!”

“She'll kill someone one day, mark my words!”

“Lock her up!”

No she isn't! He wanted to scream at them. It was an accident! She never means it! If you people would just stop treating her like this then she wouldn't get so angry! He didn't open his mouth though. It never helped to yell at the masses when this happened. All trying to defend his sister did was make people suggest that there was either something wrong with them – who had ever heard of triplets being born with completely different signs after all? Must be a sign that something had gone wrong – or that their parents were incapable of raising any of their children. He didn't want to start those rumours again. The temple and the guard had already made noises that hinted they were seriously considering taking the children.

He knew what would happen if they did. They'd separate all four of them. Make sure none of them ever saw each other again. Or at least, make sure he and Tres never saw Artica and baby Tavia again. They'd probably send him as a servant to one of the temples in Maelstrom proper, with orders to train him to 'good' behaviour. And Tres... Who knew what they'd do to Tres? Lock her up, perhaps. Throw her into Naurorod and leave her to die there?

Zap was only six, but he wasn't stupid. Tres might be a Fire, but she'd never survive alone in Naurorod. She was too little. They both were, but if someone tried to take her, he'd fight them. Or at least make them take him too and they'd stay together.

“Why does she always do this?” Zap looked over at the speaker, saw Artica holding Tavia carefully and looking at Tres with annoyance. “It's not fair. She does that stuff and no one wants us around any more.”

“It's not Tres' fault,” Zap protested quietly to his sister, finally able to voice his feelings. “She's trying real hard to control it, you know she is.”

“I know,” Artica sighed, some of the annoyance fading. “But she should try harder.”

“I think she's trying as hard as she can,” Zap replied, looking back at his red-haired sister. He wished she was the blonde haired girl triplet or that he had red hair. Then she could cut it or he could grow his and he could claim it was his fault – that he'd knocked a candle over or something. And he'd look more like Tres then Artica.

He and Tres should have just been twins. Artica could have been older, she'd have liked that. She always wanted to be grown up and act like one. She hadn't been fun in ages, not since they were old enough to take lessons at the temple and she'd started to play with other kids.

“I'm telling you, Tanson, if you don't control that girl of yours, the village will deal with her.” The captain of the guard glared at Tres with unconcealed disgust as he spoke to their father.

Dragar, I'm sorry, but Tres is only a child. And there's no one really who can teach her properly. She is trying but-”

“Then send the girl to Naurorod!” snapped Dragar. “Or Ilyamen! Sell her to the clears if you want, but that girl does not set one foot off your farm from now on unless it's to leave Sparkstrike. If you insist on putting your own home and children in danger, so be it, but the entire village does not need to suffer for your foolishness. Mark my words, Tanson, if that girl is the cause of one more fire in this village, I will remove her myself!”

“NO!” Zap couldn't stand it any more. He pushed past people and ran out to stand in front of Tres, his arms spread out to protect her. “You leave Tres alone! You can't take her away! I won't let you.”

“Boy, be silent,” Dragar snapped. “I can do whatever I need to protect this village. Tanson, control your offspring or lose them. I won't tolerate any more incidents like this.”

“Zappary, Tres...” Their father sounded and looked tired. “Go home now, both of you. And straight up to bed.”

It wasn't fair, Zap thought as he took his sister's hand and led her away from the crowd. It wasn't like he'd done anything wrong or Tres had meant to burn the temple's stupid paintings and ugly rug. They shouldn't have been shouting at her for trying to light the torch that had gone out. They'd frightened her. “It's all right Tressie,” he whispered as they walked. “I know it was just an accident. I won't let them ever keep us apart. Even if they try and take you away, I'll make them stop. Or take me too. We'll never, ever, be apart, I promise.”

“Really promise?” Tres asked, looking up from her feet for the first time.

Zap pulled off his shirt and tried to dry her tear stained face. “I really promise,” he replied. “I'll never, ever, let anyone make you cry again, Tres. Never ever.”

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Prompt 4 – Insides


Bas skipped down the last few steps into the guild, smiling brightly as several people called out a welcome to her. She loved the thieves guild. Loved the people and loved the place. Most of all she loved being a part of the guild.

Soon she'd old enough to start learning the art of picking pockets. Bas couldn't wait, but until she turned ten she was just as happy to run around with the other guild children. They had a freedom that she'd noticed other children didn't have, and they got to help keep the most important secret in all of Naruta. They were special. And she was one of them.

Behind her she heard another set of footsteps and stepped aside to wait for her twin to run down after her. Grinning she took Pas' hand and the twins ran into the nursery. Instantly they were swarmed by the other guild children who were already there, all eager to talk to them. Bas loved it, loved being the center of attention. Here she was the center of attention, the queen of her own little world. Here she wasn't just the little orphan girl, she wasn't a noble child or a poor one. She was just Bas Sanderson, one of the guild. And one day she would be an even greater thief then either of her mothers. But for now, she was happy to just belong.

“Pas and me saw the baker's got some berry pies in the window,” she announced, grinning at the cheers of the group. “Who wants to go get them?”

As she ran out of the guild with her brother and half a dozen other guild children, Bas ignored the grins and amused looks of the guild adults. Telling the adults that none of them were babies and they were on a serious mission could wait. There were more important things to deal with. Like stealing berry pies and making sure she and Pas got the biggest pieces.

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100 Stories, 100 Days

Prompt 3 – Ends

Acqua sighed softly as she rested her head on her brother's shoulder, watching the stars fading out one by one and the bright blue line on the horizon growing thicker. Amaro had long since fallen asleep, but Acqua was in no rush to wake him. They'd spent a long night out here, just talking about things that they'd needed to talk about and which Acqua's trip to Morilanta had brought to the surface.

It hadn't been an easy or pleasant talk, for all it was productive and long needed. Endings were after all often difficult and uncomfortable. Indeed, as much as Acqua had longed for her older brothers to stop treating her as the 12-year-old she'd long since outgrown, there was something unsettling about the knowledge that the last ties of childhood were now gone.

Still, nothing ended without something new beginning. Maybe now she would be free to be herself around her family, without feeling she had to act like the silly, somewhat innocent child they'd still seen her as. Acqua was, she hoped, at last free to be the young woman that guild life and the streets of Ilyamen had moulded her into. It would be a pleasant change not to have to pretend, no matter the cost.

One of the first things that would end as a result of this freedom was that she fully intended to stop holding back in spars with Talon. She was at least as accomplished with her daggers as Talon was and it was past time the student proved she had at least equalled her teachers in that area. Maybe then her family would stop worrying about her.

Acqua hoped so. It would make her and Mat's future plans a little easier. Shifting closer to Amaro for warmth, Acqua watched the sun rise slowly and bath the siblings in the light of a new future. She knew that, whatever it held, they were both ready for it.

Because no matter what endings or beginnings they faced, the bond between them was unbreakable.

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Prompt 002 – Middles

Being stuck in the middle could really suck, Pas thought with a sigh. Arguments between his brothers and sisters didn't happen often, but when they did they always seemed to drag him into it. Like now, with Bas and Aries alternating between glaring at each other over a torn, muddy and altogether ruined book and demanding Pas support one or the other of them.

It hadn't been entirely anyone's fault. Aries really shouldn't have left his book on the floor, but Bas should have both watched where she was standing and wiped her feet before coming upstairs. “It's no one's fault,” he told his siblings. “Aries, you know this room's too crowded to leave stuff lying around. Bas, you should have been more careful. So you both did it.”

“I guess,” Bas muttered, then sighed. “Sorry Aries...”

“It was my fault too,” Aries admitted. “It's okay.” As his siblings made up – with a hug that looked more like wrestling or perhaps an attempt to strangle each other – Pas headed downstairs to get a bucket of water and some rags so he could clean up Bas' trail of muddy footprints before their parents got home.

He was halfway through the trail in the kitchen when someone tapped his shoulder. Looking up, he saw Robin and Letha watching him. “We help?” Letha asked solemnly. Pas frowned slightly as he thought about that offer. The little twins liked to be involved in most of what the older three did, but there was always an equal chance that their helping would make things worse then before. Like the time they'd tried helping to water the garden and drowned the seedlings.

“It's pretty boring,” Pas warned them. “How about you two go up to your room and pick who you want to sleep with tonight? I'll finish up here then bring you both a cookie and some milk. It's past your bedtime anyway.”

“Aww,” the little twins chorused, but they made their way upstairs without a fuss. Much to Pas' relief. He agreed with his mother's regular mutterings that Letha had to have a Wind sign hidden somewhere. It was the only explanation for how she could scream nearly loud enough to shatter glass.

Finishing up washing the floor and the stairs quickly, Pas dragged the water bucket out to the back of the house and tipped it out. Faint laughter drifted to him on the breeze and his ears pricked up for a second before he hurried back inside. Hastily he filled Robin and Letha's little tin cups with the last of the day's milk and pulled two ginger cookies out of the tin before hurrying upstairs. As he passed by his room, he warned, “Muma and Daddy are nearly home. Better get ready,” before continuing on to his younger siblings. The scraping of beds being pushed together soon followed him down the hall. “Come on you two,” he announced. “Eat quickly and I'll help you get ready. Muma and Daddy will be here soon.” As the little twins gulped down their snack, Pas hastily helped them change into their nightclothes. As soon as they'd finished, he brushed the crumbs off them and helped the giggling duo into their beds. “Shh,” he whispered, listening for the tell-tale squeak of the door opening. “Go to sleep,” Pas added, lighting the little candle on their dresser with a spark. As the twins squeezed their eyes shut tightly – still giggling – Pas fled back down the hall.

“Quick, they're at the gate,” Bas hissed, hurrying away from the bedroom window. Aries was already under the covers as Bas and Pas scrambled into their now giant bed. All three grinned at each other in the dark then closed their eyes as they heard footsteps on the stairs.

Taking hold of Bas' hand under the covers and lightly resting his foot against Aries, Pas smiled. Sometimes being in the middle could suck, but sometimes...

Sometimes it wasn't bad at all.

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Prompt 001 – Beginnings

Every beginning was an ending. Nothing new could start without first destroying what had come before. Nature at it's most basic was proof of that. Dawn was the beginning of day and the end of night. Love was the birth of both strength and weakness, but the death of the same for it destroyed anger.

Even Amaro's own life was proof for this theory. The beginning of his friendship with Kestrel had been the end of his ability to turn a blind eye to the evils of slavery. The beginning of Amaro's growth into a stronger man had led to the end of his brother's life. The beginning of his friendship with Talon and his first steps into the life of the mercenary had been the end of his comfort with nobility. The beginning of Alethia and Talon's life as a married couple had been the end of their travels.

He hadn't always been pleased with those beginnings and endings. Hell, he'd resisted at least half of them like his life depended on it. Yet none of them had scared, no, terrified him a fraction as much as what lay before him now.

His little sister, the little girl who'd healed the wounds of Thom's death and his own abandonment of Vortai, was curled up in her bed, with Aria in her arms. Both of them were asleep, peaceful, content and looking like older and younger versions of each other. What terrified Amaro was that, seeing his toddler daughter and his sister in stark contrast together, he couldn't deny that Acqua wasn't a child any more. Somehow Acqua's adoption of Bas and Pas hadn't brought that home to him. Not in the way seeing her and Aria together did. And if his sister wasn't a child, would she need him to protect her? What would it do to their relationship if she didn't?

Moving nearly silently, Amaro picked up the vaguely dirty white teddy bear from where it had been left on the dresser and set it gently between the two girls. Neither woke, but both girls shifted slightly. Aria wrapped her tiny, chubby arms around the soft fur even as Acqua turned her head away from the ear that was tickling her nose, rejecting the once ever present piece of fluff.

Amaro pulled a second blanket over the girls, guarding them against the cold and silently left the room, and the house. Looking up at the stars as though they could carry his words to their mistress herself, he whispered something that was half a challenge, half a prayer. “Not this time, Etaf. They're both my little girls and they will always be my little girls.”

The beginning of fatherhood would not be the end of anything. Especially not being Acqua's big brother. He needed both roles to much to surrender either.

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Last time I failed, but I'm hoping this time I can complete the challenge. And to make it tougher, I'm going to make the rule for myself that I have to have written something for every prompt in 100 days.

Wish me luck.
001.Beginnings.002.Middles.003.Ends.004.Insides.005.Outsides.
006.Hours.007.Days.008.Weeks.009.Months.010.Years.
011.Red.012.Orange.013.Yellow.014.Green.015.Blue.
016.Purple.017.Brown.018.Black.019.White.020.Colourless.
021.Friends.022.Enemies.023.Lovers.024.Family.025.Strangers.
026.Teammates.027.Parents.028.Children.029.Birth.030.Death.
031.Sunrise.032.Sunset.033.Too Much.034.Not Enough.035.Sixth Sense.
036.Smell.037.Sound.038.Touch.039.Taste.040.Sight.
041.Shapes.042.Triangle.043.Square.044.Circle.045.Moon.
046.Star.047.Heart.048.Diamond.049.Club.050.Spade.
051.Water.052.Fire.053.Earth.054.Air.055.Spirit.
056.Breakfast.057.Lunch.058.Dinner.059.Food.060.Drink.
061.Winter.062.Spring.063.Summer.064.Fall.065.Passing.
066.Rain.067.Snow.068.Lightening.069.Thunder.070.Storm.
071.Broken.072.Fixed.073.Light.074.Dark.075.Shade.
076.Who?077.What?078.Where?079.When?080.Why?
081.How?082.If.083.And.084.He.085.She.
086.Choices.087.Life.088.School.089.Work.090.Home.
091.Birthday.092.Christmas.093.Thanksgiving.094.Independence.095.New Year.
096.Writer‘s Choice.097.Writer‘s Choice.098.Writer‘s Choice.099.Writer‘s Choice.100.Writer‘s Choice.

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Ann Rosa Starr

May 2012

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