Testing Times

Photo prompt MajesticGoldenRose

Testing Times

Gretnya gripped her husband’s hand, writhing anxiety choking her as the final calf was led into the testing area.

Please, she prayed to any deity listening.

“It’ll be fine,” Brindel said. “This time it’ll have worked, you’ll see.” The tremble in his voice contradicted the confidence of his words. She squeezed his hand tighter.

The strange sickness had swept through the herds with rampant disregard for the livelihoods depending on them. In the space of a month the carcasses had piled high. Two winters later and smoke from the pyres continued to hang, a heavy death cloak, over the plains.

Faced with ruin, many tribesfolk had left, seeking work in the distant towns. The few who remained continued to try every spell known to the mages, desperate to protect the remnants of their herds. Hope lay with the young. Surely something, eventually, would stop the disease from taking hold.

Please, let it be this time, Gretnya prayed.

Finally, the mage emerged from the testing pen. His expression told them more than words ever could.

Word Count: 174

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This post is for Priceless Joy’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge. This week’s prompt was provided by MajesticGoldenRose. Thank you!

I actually have one word free in my story this week, and I was tempted to put an extra one in the final sentence, before the word ‘expression’. I couldn’t decide which one to use, however – ‘joyous’or ‘stricken’. They leave you with very different endings! In the end I decided to use neither. You can all decide for yourselves whether the results of the test are good or bad.

I hope you liked it.


21 thoughts on “Testing Times

    1. Thanks, PJ. I think I’d choose the happy ending, too – if I was reading. When I’m writing, the temptation to go dark can sometime overtake me! I’m glad you liked it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Ooh, is he smiling or is he sad? We’ll never know! I reckon he’s smiling 🙂
    You tell a sad tale, told around the world at different times (minus the mages, though I guess there were often “wise women” and shamans involved).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I nearly used ‘shaman’, actually, instead of mage, but I didn’t want to link it too much to any actual Earth events, so I thought ‘mage’ would work better. Sadly, such events have happened too many times throughout history. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Ali. 🙂

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  2. like the cliffhanger and how one word can change it any which way, i like having my won conclusions and seeing how things can be deciphered with m ore thought into the story – lovely story Louise, especially the villagers feelings i could so sympathise with and feel their loss and despair.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Gina. It’s amazing how much a single word can change a story. And I’ve always been a fan of multiple meanings and interpretations – even I find the added layers just go over most readers heads! Admittedly, sometimes I can be a little too subtle and obscure… 😀 I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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  3. Very, very clever title, and an equally interesting story – you could really feel the character’s sense of desperation in face of the disaster that they were facing! I hope it ended well for them all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Chris. 🙂 I’m glad the characters’ desperation came across well – that was something I really wanted to capture. I think most people seem to want the happy ending…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think it’s only natural for most people to want it to end happily 😀 That’s the beauty of ambiguous endings though. You can go either way!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Loved what you did with this prompt. This is a great story which felt so able to be developed into a longer piece of fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi, I’m majesticgoldenrose, and I am glad you used my prompt. Great post, btw! Sometimes I wish FFfAW would have a higher word count so I hear more of the story… Yours is definitely one of those!


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