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Gralgash of Varn

Jessica Freely writes science fiction, fantasy, and romance, usually all at once. She has been publishing novels and novellas under various pen names since 1996 but "Gralgash of Varn" is her first flash piece. You can learn all about her many incarnations at anneharris.net.
The Warrior Beasts of Varn craft their armor from the hides of their defeated foes. When I first met Gralgash at the beginning of the Half Lands campaign he was already a veteran of fifty battles, his breastplate encrusted with the gemstone scales of Plath lizards, the razor-sharp plumage of vengeance hawks nodding from his helm. I was there the day he slew the Dragon King and I'll never forget the sight of him climbing the monster's back, the red rays of the Wasted Sun sparking off him, turning him into an ever-shifting kaleidoscope, a beacon of hope that could be seen for miles and miles. In the end, I had to look away or be blinded, so I missed the killing blow. But I helped him skin the wyrm, and I asked him if he would retire now that the enemy of the righteous was dead. "Never," he said, as he measured a length of adamantine skin against his inseam.
So it was a surprise to see him tonight in the apothecary's. I had picked up a new packet of Wizard Waxjoint's patented rheumatism remedy and was on my way out when I spotted a tattered feather bobbing down the next aisle. When I turned the corner, there he was, perusing the medicated talcum powders. White hairs showed around his muzzle. The bright scales and fiery plumage of his armor were all but gone--sold off, most likely, to make rent on a drafty little room just like mine. I don't know if he recognized me, but the look on my face must have been plain enough. More terrible than the Siege of Bone Keep was the fall of his gaze to the floor. He turned away before I could speak and I watched him go, my words of greeting caught in my throat, chafing like the dead scales of old victories.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, November 2nd, 2017


This is the first flash piece I've ever written and Daily Science Fiction is the first place I submitted it. In over twenty years in publishing that has never happened to me before! I started "Gralgash of Varn" while watching the YouTube recording of Cat Rambo's flash fiction workshop--pretty good workshop, I'd say! Thanks Cat!

- Jessica Freely

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