Oversight — Flash Fiction

This was a short story I wrote for another writing contest. The word limit for this one was very strict (for me), and I’m pretty proud of this one. Different style too.

Source: Miramui on DeviantArt

Project Oversight: Entry 00: 1st of Karstheim

Nyppi was watching the birds again today. I was returning to the lab after the midday meal and found him coiled around his climbing ladder, fixing those golden eyes upon the swallows spiraling and singing just outside the tower window. They have a nest in the vines growing up the wall. He looked almost wistful, and faintly sad. He never lies so still; he’s always shifting around or moving his tail as he observes things. He didn’t say anything when I asked after him; he just shook his head, flicked his tongue, and proposed a new mixture for our elixir. As if nothing was bothering him. I know him better than that.

For a snake, he’s quite emotive. The feathers help, I suppose. He ruffles them when he’s irritated.

The colors make autumn and spring look bland by comparison. That’s how I made him, after all. But I’ve made a grievous oversight.

I crafted a proud feathered serpent but neglected to give him real flight.

GOAL: I need to make this right.

DEADLINE: His fifth birthday is this month. I have twenty-seven days.

Entry 01: 4th of Karstheim

Sneaking off to the old lab beneath the tower brought back old memories of my apprentice days, back before my master even suggested manifesting an eidolon. I still wonder where that portal took him; I hope he doesn’t want his tower back.

I trapped one of the swallows in a force cage and brought it in for analysis. The hollow bones and fine structure of their wings were fascinating — but Nyppi doesn’t have hollow bones. He’ll need something sturdier, and stronger. The swallow returned to her nest in perfect health — no harmful effects from sedation.

Entry 02: 7th Karstheim

Bats do not have the hollow bone structure of birds, but the fine features of their wings (not to mention the aesthetics) aren’t enough for Nyppi. I don’t know if this is possible without significantly changing Nyppi’s physiology. I know species of fish have air bladders — maybe I could do something like that?

While in the tower lab today Nyppi asked me outright what I was doing every night. He sounded worried, as if something were wrong. I hate lying to him.

Entry 03: 11th Karstheim

Nyppi knows I’m hiding something from him. I don’t like the icy suspicion between us, but —

I think more than two wings will be necessary no matter what I do, and an air bladder as well. He’s not heavy, but two meters in length is neither light nor small. He needs enough support to get airborne without breaking his new wings. I don’t want to hollow his bones either; a weaker spine isn’t conducive to a long life.

Four wings and an air bladder, I think. No, two — one on each side of his body, between his wings. For balance.

How in the Abyss am I going to test these changes?

Entry 04: 17th

I think I’ve managed to pin down the incantations and necessary reagents for the metamorphosis. The old lab isn’t so dusty anymore. It’s been years since I spent that much time down there.

I ran tests on a lesser familiar; it’s the closest I can get to the real thing without risking harm to sentient life. I’m not going to turn to necromancy or blood magic for a birthday gift; he’d never forgive me for it. I built his body, but his soul is all his own. It’d taint our friendship.

The tests went well — wings first, then the air bladder, then a small modification to the tail for balance and in-air control. I haven’t tested that one yet, but it’s minor enough that it should be fine.

Entry 05: 18th

It wasn’t fine.

Nyppi has been ignoring me for the best several days. It hurts, but I don’t blame him; I imagine my recent secrecy has damaged his trust in me. I hope this makes up for that. I don’t have any other friends.

I don’t have it in me to make another.

Entry 06: 23rd

Four more days. Tests are consistent, but I realized too late that Nyppi will have some resistance to these spells. It might be more effective to use a different vector for the transformation. I’m no good at curses; perhaps alchemy? Master’s old books on mutagens are in the library — maybe fungal spores as an insertion vector?

Nyppi was watching the birds again. I caught him testing a levitation spell on himself. It was like the life left his eyes when he hit the ground. He didn’t see me.

Must be faster.

Entry 7

I haven’t slept in nearly a day, but I think I have it. I know Nyppi is outside the laboratory door; I can feel his presence in the back of my mind. He’s waiting for me; I can’t let him see what’s inside.

The surprise needs to be worth it.

Three more days.

Entry 08

Thank the Divines for my master’s old chronomancy books. A reversal spell let me test the mutagen on a simple serpent I found in the garden — everything worked perfectly, aside from some issues of scale. This will work!

I’ve never been happier to release a snake into my garden. Tomorrow is the big day.

Entry 09: 27th of Karstheim — Final Report

Nyypi flew today. I’ll never forget. He soared through the sunlit sky like he was born to do so. The moon was reborn in the sunlight off his iridescent feathers. The swallows flew alongside him. Like a ribbon of light dancing and spiraling around my tower, my closest friend flew. I’ve never been more aware of my mistakes than today, where I fixed my most egregious one. The wings are extensions of his majesty, the air bladders discrete and effective, the tail perfectly balanced.

From high above, my best friend was master of all in his sight.

It’s strange; I’d never heard him laugh before.

It’s as warm as sunlight.

This one was different, for me, but I really enjoyed it. I’m toying with the idea of editing, expanding, and improving several of my short stories and combining them into a storybook of sorts. I think that’d be a lot of fun. This one might double in length, or might only grow by an entry or two.

We will see.



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Calen Bender

Calen Bender


Fantasy author and professional content writer. I like to read, play games, play with my dogs, and pretend I know what I’m talking about.